Jamaica has provided greater protection for persons working in the hospitality division of passenger ships, such as bartenders, stewards and nail technicians, under the Shipping (Amendment) Act.
The legislation, which has been passed in both Houses of Parliament, has been amended to expand the definition of seafarers to include these categories of workers.
The changes were made against the background of a call by the United Nations and its specialised standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO, to facilitate persons working on ships who have been stranded at sea since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Director of Legal Affairs at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), Bertrand Smith, said that “Jamaica supplies thousands of persons who work in the hospitality division of cruise ships”, and the amendments will give those categories of ship workers “the same protection that the classical seafarer has”.
Mr. Smith pointed out that seafarers are the backbone of the global supply chain and they need to be protected while they carry out this important function.
“As you can imagine, their place of work is also their temporary home and it is important that they have minimum standards to ensure that their living and working conditions are at the appropriate standard,” he said.
Mr. Smith pointed out that the Shipping Act is the primary legislation that establishes the legal framework for the protection of seafarers.
The amendments incorporated the Maritime Labour Convention into the Act.
“This convention is known as the Bill of Rights for seafarers, as it sets out the minimum living and working conditions on board ships,” Mr. Smith told JIS News.
Highlighting other provisions of the legislation, he said that these include the right to repatriation at the end of the contract period, with the shipowner required to pay for the seafarer’s return home or to the agreed repatriation port.
It also addresses minimum hours of rest.
“As you can imagine, it is difficult when your home is also your workplace, and so we have to ensure that the seafarers have adequate rest to avoid fatigue, which can lead to accidents,” Mr. Smith said.
Minimum vacation leave is another area that is covered, as well as the period within which wages must be paid, which should be no more than a month; the minimum age of a seafarer; medical care; and insurance against abandonment.
“Significantly, abandonment now includes not being paid wages for three or more months, so it doesn’t have to be that the ship is in a particular port or in distress but if you do not receive your wages for three or more months, then the law protects the seafarer,” Mr. Smith said.
He told JIS News that there are many other standards relating to accommodation size, water, food and shore leave, “so the Act now incorporates these provisions and Jamaica, through the Maritime Authority, can enforce these provisions”.
He explained that this will be done through Port State Control (PSC) Inspectors, who can board foreign ships calling at Jamaican ports to inspect the conditions.
The PSC Inspectors have the power to detain ships if they are found to be in breach, Mr. Smith said.
Shipowners are also required to have a complaints mechanism, so that the seafarers can make a complaint to the MAJ and action taken by the entity in response to those complaints.