Marine, Transport & Logistics

Seafarers kidnapped by pirates must be remunerated: moving towards the entry into force of the latest changes to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention

As is well known, the International Maritime Labour Convention (ILO – MLC, 2006) is one of the cornerstones of national and international maritime labour law. Since its entry into force on 20 August 2012, the Convention has successfully pursued the objective of providing – with its comprehensive system of universally applicable rules and minimum standards – a valid protection for “Seafarers“.

The extraordinary vitality of the system introduced by the Convention is proven not only by its almost universal application in maritime traffic, but also by the fact that, since its entry into force in 2012, the text of the Convention has been amended and supplemented several times, in order to enrich the agreed protection standards and ensure, at the same time, a gradual increase in the level of protection offered. The latest amendments, which will enter into force shortly, are an additional element aimed at filling a potential regulatory gap in the Convention system.

The process for the approval of the amendments resolved in 2018 has now come to an end. In fact, the deadline for Member States that have ratified the Convention to express their disagreement with the entry into force of the amendments expired on 26 June. The ‘no’ vote threshold provided for by the Convention, equal to at least 40% of the Member States (representing at least 40% of the gross tonnage of the world merchant shipping) has not been reached and therefore the amendments will definitely enter into force on 26 December 2020.

Therefore, in a very short time, the uniform rules set out by the Convention will be further enriched, providing concrete answers to problems that are much less romantic and fictional than they may appear at first glance: piracy and armed robbery against ships.

In particular, the amendments introduce a number of concrete responses, addressing issues related to the employment relationships of seafarers held in captivity (on or off a ship) as a result of acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships.

Where seafarers become victims of abductions or kidnappings in connection with acts of piracy or robbery against ships:

  • their employment agreements shall continue to be valid and effective throughout their period of their captivity, regardless of whether, during said captivity period, (a) the date fixed for its expiry has passed or (b) either party has given notice to suspend or terminate it (paragraph 7 added to standard A2.1);
  • wages and other entitlements – due to the seafarers under the employment agreement, relevant collective bargaining agreement or applicable national laws – shall continue to be paid during the entire period of captivity and until the seafarer is released and duly repatriated or, where the seafarer dies while in captivity, until the date of death (paragraph 7 added to standard A2.2);
  • the term for repatriation shall not lapse while seafarers are held captive and seafarers shall be entitled to repatriation, even if they did not claim for said entitlement within a “reasonable period of time”, as defined by the applicable national law (the wording replaces paragraph 8 of guideline B2.5.1).

So, the amendments are intended to fill the gap in the existing legislation and to introduce a standard of economic security for the families of seafarers in order to provide them with sufficient means of subsistence and thus at least mitigate the economic problems to which they might be exposed during periods of abduction and kidnapping of their loved ones, that is, at a time when seafarers and their families are already exposed to unquestionable psychological stress.


This article is for information purposes only and is not, and cannot be intended as, a professional opinion on the topics dealt with. For further information please contact your counsel.

Get our latest news