News and Events

Canada Clamps Down on

MLC Crew Contract Violations


BY THE MARITIME EXECUTIVE 01-18-2021 08:16:00

Transport Canada has warned shipowners that it plans to enforce the Maritime Labor Convention's provisions on crew change, particularly the requirement that all crewmembers must have a valid seafarer employment agreement (SEA). 

As the COVID-19 crew change crisis drags on, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are serving on board beyond their original contract end date - including many who have turned down contract renewal and are working on expired contracts, according to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

The Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) normally entitles seafarers to repatriation at the shipowner's expense at the end of a contract, and it limits the total term of service to a maximum of 11 months. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led port states around the world to impose strict limits on cross-border movement, including crew changes. Even where movements are permitted, new control measures like pre-travel COVID testing, shoreside quarantine periods and charter flights have dramatically raised the costs of crew change. Given the expense and logistical challenge involved, ITF has reported difficulties in securing repatriation for seafarers trapped on board past their contracts. 

Australian regulators have highlighted similar issues. In November, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said that the agency does not see keeping seafarers on board ships for longer than 11 months as a sustainable business practice going forward. Australia plans to enforce the MLC limit as written beginning on February 28, 2021. “In our view there has been sufficient time for ship operators to adjust to the COVID-19 world and develop new plans for seafarer repatriation and crew changes,” AMSA general manager Allan Schwartz said. 

Transport Canada does not plan to enforce the 11-month limit quite as strictly as AMSA, but it is cautioning shipowners that they need to have a reason and a plan for seafarers who have been on board beyond that timeline. To avoid dentention or penalties, all possible efforts must have been made to repatriate seafarers serving beyond 11 months; there must be unforeseen events that have made it impossible to perform a crew change for them; the seafarers must freely accept an extension beyond the 11-month limit; and there must be a flag-approved plan for repatriating them as soon as possible. In addition, the shipowner must show its actions to protect these seafarers' mental health and fight fatigue. 

Canada plans to show less flexibility when it comes to employment contracts. Each seafarer must have an employment agreement, and "foreign vessels in Canadian waters operating without a valid SEA for all crew members will be subject to enforcement action," including detention or a fine. An expired, non-renewed contract is often perceived by unions and regulators as a signal of non-voluntary employment. 

 l of non-voluntary employment. 



The Seafarers Happiness Index exists to provide all men and women working at sea with a chance to share how they feel and to talk about the good and bad about life at sea today. Share your views and let the industry know what works and what needs to be changed.






This past December 2020, the Mission's Miranda Peters and the mission crew, visited almost every ship that came into Hamilton Harbour bearing Christmas gifts to grateful sailors.

The gifts, food and kindness have been donated from many donors and the MTSSO would like to thank them. 



Dear pastor Dan,

On behalf of the crew of Stella Polaris I would like to thank the Mission to Seafarers in Hamilton and everybody involved for your gifts.  Find attached a picture from our Christmas eve 2020 on board. It helps in these difficult times to comfort us.

I wish you and everybody else a  merry, hopeful Christmas and a healthy, happy new year.


Joost van Zaane

Master Stella Polaris



Keeping Seafarers happy is a very big deal to us and they are so grateful for so little.


These two Seafarers were from Indonesia and were freezing in the  Ontario weather. A very generous donor had given us the incredible gift of many very warm coats which they were encouraged to try on.


They hadn’t been warm outside for months.  Imagine: being in Jakarta and trying to find a store to sell you winter clothing…..for the northern hemisphere?  Never happens.  


The Mission to Seafarers collects and donates lots of warm clothing to the Seafarers who visit our stations, especially those from the countries located near the equator!



This was a special moment for a group of folks at the Oshawa “Terry Finlay Seafarers Centre”.  A group of Seafarers in port were able to make arrangements...