Skip to main content

Maritime Charity Column: shore leave are you getting enough?

4 June 2024

Head of the ITF Seafarers' Trust Katie Higginbottom explores the rationale behind the Trust's seafarer shore leave survey, and why decent working conditions have to be defended all the time or 'you blink and they've gone'.

According to Regulation 2.4 of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), seafarers have a right to shore leave for their health and wellbeing. This is uncontested, but is also linked to 'operational requirements'. We know that for decades crews have been getting smaller and turn-around times have been getting tighter, making time off in port much less routine.

During the pandemic, repatriation was virtually impossible, let alone shore leave. Now things are back to normal – as far as the shipping industry is ever normal – but is shore leave back on the agenda? Is the absence of shore leave becoming the norm? A career in maritime can have many benefits but, as with any sector subject to market forces, the quality of work can go up and down and it can be environmental factors that make a big difference.

The ITF Seafarers' Trust funds initiatives to improve the welfare and wellbeing of seafarers. We have an interest in shore leave both as a fundamental right and as a driver for establishing welfare facilities in ports. If there's no shore leave, why build a seafarers' centre or fund a minibus?

The MLC requires shore-based welfare facilities to be easily accessible where they exist. But it doesn't require states to make sure they exist. Given that seafarers are so often described as the backbone of global trade, it seems astonishing that rights to decent working conditions have to be defended all the time, otherwise you can blink and they've gone.

Please help us to collect some statistics on the current state of shore leave so we're equipped to make the urgent argument for more of it.


Become a Nautilus member today