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26 September 2013

MLC: What purchasers and technical superintendents need to know?

With the MLC (2006) Convention now in force and vessels actively being detained, Capt. Tony Field, Lloyd’s Register, looks at some key areas requiring attention for purchasing managers and technical superintendents.

The MLC is now in force and we are being asked lots of more and more detailed questions by operators and flag states. Obviously, different operators will have differing challenges and MLC compliance will be different on a cruise ship to a bulk carrier. But, overall, the new convention necessitates a huge culture change in how we manage people and look after their needs in our industry.

Here are some things that need to be looked at and taken into account by operators:

1. Food Preparation / Galley – Fridge Cleanliness

This is a huge area of concern, and in my opinion the Masters / Superintendents still do not take this seriously enough. This is a high risk area both from the health perspective and PSC problems yet it is, if not simple, fairly low cost to ensure compliance.

The cooks are often not trained properly even to the very basic standards. A company approached Lloyd’s Register the other day to see if we wished to work together (not sure that we can) but they are perfectly correct that there is a big issue in this area.  I expect that they will be very busy in the next 6 months when vessels get detained. You may remember that when a vessel gets detained for Fire/Safety issues they often must go through training before the detention lifted, well this is where these guys hope to cash in through training crew from detained vessels.

2. Purchasing Food

This is another area that is often poorly overseen on board. It is often not easy to return goods (or so the chandler will tell you) but as can be seen from the latest issues with refrigerated containers, the claims are spiralling due to lack of control through the full supply chain. Food delivered to vessels is often too ripe to last the voyage – frozen food especially; meat is well below the temperature allowed; and the ordering is not controlled properly usually due to the poor on board stock control including regard for “use by” dates. Cooks must be trained in creating effective menus and think about food for more than one day at a time. Poor ordering either creates excess cost to the company or a poor standard of food on board.

3. Managing Agents keeping the allotments / pay remittance for excessive time

Whilst non-payment of wages is not a big issue, late payment by manning agents after the Owners have deposited the cash is a problem.

Just think, a large manning agent may have 1000 – 2000 seafarers on vessels at any time, if we take an average allotment of US$500 per month then this is US$500,000 to US$1,000,000 sent each month by the Owners. If the manning agent delays the payment 2 weeks then just think of the interest they gain…..

4. Hours of work and rest

A lot has been written about this but it is still a big issue. The whole area of work and rest creates difficulties – balancing adequate rest with compliance to ensure that shipboard management can control this area. This may require the industry changing its whole approach to people management and working culture.

5. Internet on board for crew use

The interesting point has been made by the crew themselves is that whilst they want internet on board so that they can contact their families they are not sure that “full internet access” at all times is a good idea. They have seen on the few ships that have this that there is then no personal contact between the seafarers as they are all in their cabins and always on the computer (sounds much like William my teenage son!).

6. Officer / Crew Certificates

Someone should develop a good system and sell to the Flags to get everything in the same format, probably a “pipe dream” but it would bring this area into the 20th century (I know we are in the 21st Century but shipping is that far behind in some areas!).

Tony is Lloyd’s Register’s Marine Business Manager SE Europe & EMEA Regional Marine Consultancy Manager – based in Piraeus he is also Lloyd’s Register’s lead manager on MLC related services and global delivery. Lloyd’s Register has now completed more than 1,000 MLC related inspections for the international shipping industry.