The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) – a pioneering coalition of companies from across the global shipping industry – has announced it has developed the concept of a ‘Seafarers’ On-board Charter’ – a best practice charter that can be adopted by ship owners and operators to further enhance the welfare of seafarers beyond the mandatory standards of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). The announcement coincides with the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) annual Day of the Seafarer on 25th June 2016, which recognises the indispensable role that seafarers play in driving the global economy.
The SSI’s Social Sustainability Working Group has developed the concept for the Seafarers’ On-board Charter following the implementation of a research survey to analyse the quality of life of seafarers, and generate insights on what more can be done to enhance living conditions while on-board vessels. The Charter aims to encourage ship owners and operators to go beyond the mandatory basics of the MLC, including specifically implementing some of the voluntary aspects of the Part B provisions of the MLC, within the following five subcategories:
- Accommodation – enhancing habitability through indoor environmental quality factors
- Recreation and social activities – providing and equipping recreational spaces for social activities on board
- Communication and social support – providing internet connectivity, and monitoring seafarer satisfaction
- Food and catering – provide routines for testing of potable water to ensure a suitable quality
- Management and policy – ensuring that there are equal opportunities for seafarers and shore staff, and encouraging a harmonious working environment
Ship owners and operators that adopt the best practice standards of the Charter will demonstrate their recognition of the value of the seafarer to the enterprise, and their commitment to them. By creating a better working environment, they will attract and retain the best talent which will inspire more productivity and efficiencies within operations, adding to their competitive advantage with their customers.
To support the voluntary implementation of the Charter, the SSI is working with its ship owner and charterer members for suitable rating schemes to adopt the the Charter and would recognise and favour owners and operators who adopt the more progressive approaches to crew welfare. A further development could be for access to the Charter to allow seafarers to see which progressive companies place additional value on their sea staff.
The development of the Charter is in line with the third key pillar of the SSI’s Vision for a sustainable shipping industry by 2040. The SSI believes that not only is it a fundamental duty of the industry to improve the overall quality of life for those that work at sea, but also, the industry must build a reputation for being a trusted and responsible partner within the communities where it lives, works and operates. This will help to promote shipping as an industry of opportunity, attracting and retaining people with the traditional skills and competencies required, as well as the more diverse skillsets and experience which are increasingly needed as the industry develops in technical complexity.
“Since coming into force, the Maritime Labour Convention has had a positive impact in ensuring that the majority of seafarers, at the minimum, have a basic, safe, and secure workplace as well as fair terms of employment and relatively decent living conditions,” said Alastair Fischbacher, CEO, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative.
“While there are many companies who already implement many of the Charter aspirations, it is by no means universal and more need to be aware of what they can do to improve their sea staff’s satisfaction and productivity. Seafarers are the lifeblood of the shipping industry and critical to its future sustainability. The Charter sets out some simple measures that enhance their welfare, living standards and working conditions to ensure that we attract and retain the best talent by ensuring a reputation for shipping as an industry where people can build rewarding careers.”