Concern Over Unpaid Wages Persists Despite MLC Success

Photo (c) Shutterstock/Joe Belanger
Photo (c) Shutterstock/Joe Belanger

Overall confidence in the successful implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) should not conceal continuing concern over the risk of abandonment and the timely payment of crew wages, according to specialist marine insurance intermediary Seacurus.

Thomas Brown, managing director of Seacurus, cited recent positive figures reported by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control, showing 113 ship detentions relating to MLC deficiencies recorded since MLC 2006 entered into force on 20 August, 2013. On the surface, the numbers seem to indicate that the MLC Convention is being well-enforced, however a deeper look at the figures show some cause for concern.

“Overall, it seems that progress is being made and that MLC can deliver on its promises. But the Paris MoU figures also show that retainable MLC-related deficiencies were most frequently recorded in the areas of ‘payment of wages’ (39.5 percent) and ‘manning levels for the ship’ (28.6 percent).

“Moreover, a survey earlier this year by seafarer website and employment agency Crewtoo appears to bear out the Paris MoU data. Almost half the respondents to the survey, which gathered the views of over 1,000 seafarers, said they had had to wait at some point for delayed wage payments to be made by their employer. The same survey also revealed that 36 percent of seafarers had been forced to work without pay, while 17 percent had been abandoned.

“Overdue salaries are one of the red-flag indicators of financial distress for shipping companies, and many seafarers are being subjected to undue stress, frustration and uncertainty over wage payments. MLC 2006 states that wages should be paid at least every month, so it is disappointing to see that so many seafarers have experienced delays. There are clearly reasons for concern in this regard.

“It seems that seafarers feel positive about the effect that MLC 2006 is having on their day-to-day existence, reflecting both the spirit and the letter of the convention. Seafarers are aware of the protective systems in place, such as the Seacurus CrewSeacure cover, and are willing to research the subject before sailing. This could be something of a tipping point for the industry. But it is not quite time for pats on the back and high-fives. There are still problems which need to be addressed.”