Maritime Labour Convention (“MLC”) – Hong Kong position

What will be the governing legislation/convention?

The Marine Department proposed to update the existing provisions by amending the Merchant Shipping (Seafarers) Ordinance (Cap 478) and its subsidiary legislation, as well as enacting a new piece of subsidiary legislation, tentatively named Merchant Shipping (Seafarers) (Maritime Labour Convention) Regulation (the “New Regulation”).

The New Regulation will establish certification, inspection and enforcement mechanism to ensure that ships registered in Hong Kong are foreign ships entering Hong Kong are compliant with the MLC.

What are the main requirements?

Under the New Regulation, all ships registered in Hong Kong of 500 gross tonnage or over and engaged in international voyages are required to maintain a “Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance” (“DMLC”) and a “Maritime Labour Certificate” issued by the Marine Department certifying that the working and living conditions of seafarers on the ship comply with the MLC requirements in 14 areas (major requirements are summarised at Annex).

What are the exceptions?

The  five types of ship that are not subject to the MLC are:

(i) ships engaged in fishing or similar pursuits;

(ii) ships of traditional build, including wooden ships, such as dhows and junks;

(iii) ships owned or operated by the Government or a State and engaged only on governmental non-commercial services;

(iv) warships or naval auxiliaries; and

(v) pleasure vessels not engaged in trade.

Enforcement Authority

The Marine Department may board and inspect any ship registered in Hong Kong to ensure its compliance with the Regulation.

What are the sanctions?

Upon conviction of a breach of the new Regulation, the owner and/or master of a ship registered in Hong Kong are/is liable to a fine or imprisonment.

Current status

Hong Kong has not yet ratified the MLC, although the Marine Department stated in a notice back in 2013 that the Government has been preparing local legislation for the implementation of the MLC.

Hong Kong registered ships will be issued with a “Statement of Compliance” by a list of “Recognised Organisations” to show to Port States that they are in compliance with the provisions of MLC, 2006 prior to formal acceptance of the MLC by Hong Kong.


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