Seafarers’ groups have won the right to mandatory social connectivity for crews, including internet access, in updates to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), but the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has noted that there has been disappointment that shipowners and governments may still seek to charge crews to get online.
The latest Special Tripartite Committee (STC) meeting for the MLC ended in Geneva on 13 May, with agreement on a number of changes including a commitment to better social connectivity for seafarers.
“We’ve learned a lot during the Covid period and that has been driving us to improve the MLC,” said Mark Dickinson, Vice Chair of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) Seafarers’ Section, STC Vice-President and spokesperson for the Seafarers Group.
“Working for long periods at sea can be isolating, and a lack of contact with the outside world can have profound implications for seafarers’ wellbeing — which we saw the worst effects of during Covid.”
“Being able to keep in touch with family and friends isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a basic human right. That’s why we fought so hard for seafarers to be given internet access and to have a mandatory provision in the MLC.”
Despite the fact that most ships already have the technology to provide internet access, ITF says that shipowners have been slow to provide this to crews, with those owners insisting that they should be able to limit access and be able to charge seafarers for internet connectivity.
The Seafarers Group lobbied to ensure that any charges levied on seafarers remain an exception, and if any charges are imposed that they are reasonable. Governments were also encouraged to increase internet access in ports and associated anchorages without cost to seafarers.