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Understanding the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Hours of Work) Regulations 2018

Posted by: Matthew Spells

These regulations, which come into force on 6 April 2018, are designed to consolidate and update the Merchant Shipping (Hours of Work) Regulations 2002. The 2018 Regulations will predominantly apply to UK sea-going ships, regardless of their geographical location and some EU ships, whilst in a UK port. The Regulations do not apply to fishing boats, pleasure boats, warships or vessels that are not involved with in commercial activities.

The 2018 Regulations cover anybody who is working aboard a ship on ship’s business, employed or otherwise, if they have been retained to provide services personally. Seafarer’s who are already subject to the Merchant Shipping (Working Time: Inland Waterways) Regulations 2013 will not be affected under these new regulations.
The 2018 Regulations set out minimum standards for the working conditions of seafarers’ working conditions including:

  • Rest periods: a minimum 10-hour rest period (s) in any 24-hour period, and 77 hours in any 7-day period. These rest periods must not be divided into more than two periods, one of which must be at least 6 hours long.
  • Annual leave: paid annual leave of 2.5 days per month and additional paid leave of 8 days in each leave year. Seafarers can take their annual leave in installments and the leave cannot be replaced by payment in lieu except in termination.
  • Employment tribunals: seafarers can enforce their right to paid annual leave at an employment tribunal. As with the previous framework, breaches of the provisions on working hours and rest breaks are enforced through criminal law.

These regulations and the minimum standards are to be maintained by the ship-owner, master or seafarers employer. Furthermore, in addition they are required to adhere to regulations that set out a requirement to maintain adequate records of the seafarer’s entitlements and preclude the “contracting out” of any of the minimum provisions to ensure that the minimum standards are maintained.

If you are unsure how this affects you, or you would like further information and full details about the new MLC 'Hours of Work' regulations, please visit the MLC website.

If you would like to find out more about the WRS Marine division and the opportunities available for seafarers, please get in touch on +44 161 926 2525 or email

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