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Transport Canada reaffirms its intention to enforce MLC rules on crew changes

Transport Canada has issued a Ship Safety Bulletin stating that it will apply the provisions of the 2016 Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), to which Canada is a signatory, over the duration of the contract and repatriation. The statement underlines that a seafarer that has completed 11 months onboard, he or she has the right to get off and be repatriated at the owner’s expense.

In Canada, seafarers are considered as workers in the marine transportation sector who are essential for the movement of goods by vessel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Transport Canada is working closely with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency to help with crew changes. Due to travel restrictions linked to COVID-19, there are reports of seafarers who should have been repatriated long ago and who are being stranded aboard ships around the world. The fatigue and mental health problems of seafarers may have deteriorated to such an extent that they may represent a danger to health and safety.

Since the start of the pandemic, Canada has used a pragmatic approach to deal with the issue of extending service periods on board ships. This work has been guided by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and relevant Port State Control Memoranda of Understanding. To this end, Transport Canada Port State Control Officers will continue to promptly respond to any complaint or indication that a vessel is not operating in accordance with the requirements of the MLC respecting the right of seafarers to repatriation.

Foreign vessels in Canadian waters operating without a valid seafarer employment agreement for all crew members will be subject to enforcement action such as detention and/or a fine. Australia issued a similar statement in December.