Sailors’ Society seeks changes to the Maritime Labour Convention

Maritime charity Sailors’ Society is petitioning the International Labour Organization (ILO) to make wellness training for seafarers mandatory in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

The petition is a key part of the charity’s Not On My Watch campaign to combat suicide and depression at sea.

The campaign is also calling on maritime companies to donate to the charity’s work with seafarers struggling with depression and to run wellness training for their staff.

More than a quarter of seafarers suffer from depression and nearly 6% of deaths at sea are attributable to suicide, increasing dramatically if probable suicides – seafarers going missing at sea under suspicious circumstances – are taken into account. To put this into context, less than 1% of deaths in the United Kingdom in 2017 were recorded as suicide.

Sandra Welch, Sailors’ Society’s deputy CEO, said, “These are shockingly high rates – and one suicide is one too many. The fact that six times as many deaths at sea are attributable to suicide highlights how urgent an issue mental health at sea is.

“That is why we are launching our Not On My Watch campaign and asking the International Labour Organization to make wellness training a minimum requirement for seafarers to work on board a ship.”

The MLC is an ILO convention which regulates living and working conditions for seafarers. It has been ratified by 92 member states, representing more than 91% of the world merchant shipping fleet.

To sign the Sailors’ Society’s petition, click here.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. I indicated elsewhere that I am in support of the campaign and I have signed the petition. I am however concerned that this does not serve to detract from the employers’ responsibility for “decent” working conditions. There is a worrying trend in land-based workplaces where health and safety is increasingly individualised. I have looked at some of the training videos being promoted for seafarers and they are all about taking responsibility for your own mental health. This is very important and I am not advocating otherwise. However we should be careful that a situation is not created where, having been trained, seafarers are left to take care of their own mental health. I have seen some indication of this in my research. If the work environment is not conducive to maintaining workers’ mental health, training them and leaving them in the same situation is counterproductive.

  2. too many requestings for our health especially the mental, but still there are a lot of ports where the seamen is nothing, doesn’t care if they can go or not ashore.
    One example Tubarao (Vitoria) Brasil, seamen are oblige to pay $ 100.- USD to the port for transportation to the gate, just for internal transporation, more than 3 years with this abuse…….where is the rights of seamen witten in MLC 2019 ???

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