UK Parliament Refers to WMU Report Regarding Seafarers’ Hours of Work and Rest

On 10 February 2021, the UK Parliament tabled Early Day Motion 1481 on Seafarers’ Hours of Work and Rest. The Motion directly refers to the World Maritime University (WMU) Culture of Adjustment research report that underlines systemic failures in the implementation of the regulatory regime for seafarers’ hours of work and rest, undermining the credibility of international regulations relating to working hours.

The motion notes that the WMU Culture of Adjustment report, based on interviews with seafarers, maritime safety and port state regulators, flag states and seafarer organisations, finds an ingrained culture of under-reporting and falsification of seafarers’ hours of work and rest which implicates the entire industry, from flag States and shipowners to the seafarers onboard; further notes the report’s conclusion that a 14 hour working day has become standardised for some seafarers, in contravention of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention; agrees with maritime union RMT that the WMU report exposes a culture of fatigue and downward commercial pressure on seafarers and safe crewing levels, long standing problems in the ferries sector, which are exacerbated in the deep sea supply chain by the demands of multinationals; believes that the coronavirus pandemic has intensified the crisis relating to seafarers working conditions and that this requires stronger regulatory and enforcement responses at domestic and international levels; and calls upon Governments to work with shipowners organizations and maritime trade unions to implement the recommendations of the WMU report.

Robert Courts, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Transport, noted in his response that: “The UK led the way internationally in designating seafarers as key workers. This helped to facilitate repatriation and ensure access ashore for their wellbeing where compatible with local restrictions. The UK has also supported international initiatives such as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains which was adopted on 1 December 2020. The UK has also supported the International Maritime Organization’s adoption of the industry protocols for safe crew changes.”

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are used by Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons to draw the attention of the House to a particular issue, event or campaign. Other MPs may show their support for an EDM by adding their own signature to it. The primary sponsor of EDM 1481 is Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, of the Labour Party and 25 MPs have signed to support the motion. 

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