The Shipping (Amendment) Act, which is designed to make better provisions for standards and behaviours within the merchant shipping industry nationally and internationally, was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 17).
Piloting the legislation, Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, said the Bill is aimed at making more complete provisions for the living and working conditions, as well as the rights of seafarers, in line with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
“This progressive legislation needs no debating in my estimation, as it is a necessity, especially given the realities we are currently facing in light of the presence of the coronavirus,” Mr. Montague said.
“This piece of legislation will enable Jamaica – as an active member of the international community – to meet and honour our obligations under the Maritime Convention and give effect to our decision so to do,” he added.
The Minister said the Bill introduces new definitions and replaces several existing terms in the Principal Act to reflect the language of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, for example, “seaman” to “seafarer”, and “crew agreement” to “seafarer employment agreement”.
Allied to this, Mr. Montague said, is the wider definition of seafarer, adopted to cover any person engaged by or on behalf of the owner of a ship and includes persons employed in the hospitality division of passenger ships.
“This is truly important for Jamaica, as there are approximately 10,000 Jamaicans working on cruise ships in the hospitality division that are going to benefit immensely from this provision,” the Minister noted.
The framework for the engagement and welfare of seafarers has also been enhanced with the addition of provisions governing collective bargaining agreements and establishes the competent authority for the Act as the Maritime Authority.
In addition, the Bill introduces requirements for Jamaican ships of 500 gross tonnage or over to have on board a current Maritime Labour Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance, demonstrating compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention.
“The Act also empowers the Minister to grant exemptions by way of publication in the Gazette of a category of ships from the provisions of the Principal Act dealing with the engagement and welfare of seafarers,” Mr. Montague explained.
Additionally, the amendments provide a change in the minimum working age from 16 years to 18 years.
“This clause outlines restrictions on the type of work in which a person under the age of 18 years may be employed on board a Jamaican ship. Such person may not be engaged in the engine room (unless under supervision), in night work (unless with the permission of the Authority for a recognised training programme), as a cook or any type of work likely to jeopardise their health or safety,” Mr. Montague said.
The Bill speaks to provisions of water for seafarers on board as a free commodity to the seafarers.
The legislation further introduces provision addressing a shipowner’s liability for medical care and burial expenses.
It also provides that the owner of a Jamaican ship is responsible for the health protection and medical care of all seafarers working on board the ship, and such medical care shall be comparable to that available to workers ashore.
“The reforms outlined here are expected to significantly impact workers’ welfare and productivity within the maritime industry nationally and internationally,” Mr. Montague said.
For his part, Member of Parliament for Manchester North West, and Opposition Spokesman on Transport, Mikael Phillips, welcomed the legislation.