The season is nearly over and many crew are looking forward to winding down in the autumn after a successful summer cruising season. Unfortunately, it has not been a bed of roses and enjoyment for all our crew. Indeed, as recruiters, we are often called upon to assist when there is an incident or problem with a crew member onboard.
This is especially true for newcomers to the industry who may not be aware of their rights and which procedures to follow should there be a problem. Not an easy subject to address, however, things do happen and as the old idiom goes “Worse things happen at sea”.
What are the possible situations and what to keep in mind?
The problem scenarios are very diverse; a physical accident, safety or personal security issues, verbal or sexual harassment, contractual issues linked to non-payment of salaries for example.
So where do we start? Needless to say, your trusted and experienced recruiter can listen and understand your problem in the first instance. However, depending on the nature of the problem exterior assistance may be required to resolve the issue.
The 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) provides a well-documented and regulated response for all issues that are linked to the application of the Convention’s requirements that also include seafarer’s rights. MLC 2006 Regulation 5.1.5 stipulates that all yachts to whom the Convention applies must have onboard complaint procedures. These procedures may be used by all crew to lodge complaints, without prejudice nor victimisation. The Maritime Labour Convention stipulates that the procedures should seek to resolve complaints at the lowest level possible. However, crew have a right to complain directly to the captain and, should they consider it necessary, to the appropriate external authorities.
What are the available organisations?
The first step when faced with a problem is to address the issue with your head of department or superior officer. The head of department should attempt to resolve the matter but if this response is not satisfactory it may be referred to the captain who should handle the matter personally. If a problem remains unresolved it should be referred ashore to the yacht’s management company and the yacht’s owner or representative. The MLC 2006 Convention also ensures that all crew have the right to report a complaint to the port of call (Port State) in order to facilitate a prompt and practical means of redress.
However, should your yacht not be regulated by the Convention, then use the above steps as a guideline. No matter how big or small your yacht, private or charter, there are always solutions and you may need to contact other organisations to find assistance.
What else is available? In some instances, you can also contact a professional yachting organisation. The PYA (Professional Yachting Association) or the GEPY (Groupement des Equipages Professionnels du Yachting). Both of these well-established and respected associations have a large network of professionals who may be able to offer advice if they cannot assist directly.
Another avenue to investigate is a seafarer’s trade union such as Nautilus International or the International Transport Workers’ Federation who also deal with yacht crew. These large and international trade unions have legal specialists and multiple departments who can provide solutions and support on diverse matters.
When dealing with a problem that may be more emotional or mental health related you can make contact with Yacht Crew Help (www.yachtcrewhelp.org/) who can advise on a healthy onboard working environment.
Finally, take care and remember solutions do exist!