Your cabin should be your tiny sanctuary onboard, a place to get some well deserved downtime and rest your weary bones. Although, when you join a boat as a crew member, it’s likely that you will have no control over who you are working alongside, or who you might be cabin sharing with. Typically, crew areas are small and let’s face it, badly considered, which can result in less than ideal living situations. You will spend a lot of time with fellow crew members, so it is natural for small grievances to occur, particularly if you are sharing your designated private space onboard. Further, due to crew spaces being limited on most boats, it is not unusual for a crew member to be asked to share a cabin with a member of the opposite sex. However,¬†if your boat is in compliance with the MLC 2006 (Maritime Labour Convention), there are certain rules that must be abided by when it comes to cabin sharing. In this article we will delve into what you need to know about cabin sharing onboard MLC compliant boats.
Photo courtesy of professionalyachtmastertraining.com

MLC Compliance

If you are working on a vessel that is larger than 500GT and is commercially registered, the chances are that the boat is MLC compliant. The Maritime Labour Convention establishes minimum working and living standards for all seafarers working on ships flying the flags of ratifying countries. The convention is comprehensive and outlines Seafarers’ rights to decent working conditions. It covers almost every aspect of work and life onboard including; Seafarer’s Employment Agreements, hours of rest,¬†repatriation at the end of contract, onboard medical care and accommodation, food and catering, amongst others. In some cases, it may transpire that you are asked to share a cabin with the opposite member of sex, perhaps due to the lack of cabins or if you are working onboard a busy charter yacht with lots of crew swapping in and out. Perhaps the concept of sharing a cabin with the opposite gender doesn’t bother you, but if it does, here is what you need to know about your rights as a Seafarer under MLC compliance. According to the PYA:

“For MLC compliance it is essential that, given the number and genders of the crew on board, the overall number of cabins and of berths (beds) is sufficient for full separation of genders theoretically to obtain. If that requirement is met, then the actual occupancy of cabins and berths is not a matter for flag or Port State Control (PSC) to comment on or become involved with, as long as the shared cabin arrangements are acceptable to the parties concerned.”

This means that, unless both crew members are in complete agreement of the arrangement to share a cabin, you are within your rights to protest against this. In the past, perhaps cabin sharing with the opposite gender was considered as simply ‘part of the job’, but with attitudes changing and the unveiling of certain types of toxic behaviour towards female crew in the industry, it is not surprising that many would not be comfortable with this setup.

Attitudes Towards Cabin Sharing

In a recent Facebook post on the popular group ‘Yachties: Name, Shame and Fame‘, where many crew members go to ask fellow Yachties advice on various subjects, one female crew member, aged 25, asked for advice after having been asked to share a cabin with a 56 year old Male chef. The crew member explained that she had been sleeping in the Crew Mess due to her discomfort with the situation. The responses varied. Many suggested the crew member simply leave the vessel, whilst others suggested she ‘toughen up’ or simply use earplugs. Other commenters pointed towards the MLC and suggested that the crew member raise the issue with the Captain. In order to discover more about the attitudes toward cabin sharing, we conducted an Instagram poll. When asked “How do you feel about sharing a cabin with the opposite gender onboard?”, 46% of Men and 54% of Women stated they would be uncomfortable. Interestingly, 66% of Men and 33% of Women stated they would be okay with it, whilst 53% of Men and 47% of Women stated they were unsure entirely. These results perhaps point to a changing attitude within the industry, and are also indicative of what appears to be a gendered view of cabin sharing. Nevertheless, it is always important to raise issues onboard your vessel, regardless of the subject. If crew simply leave a yacht without expressing their true reasons for leaving, the issue is not solved, it is merely passed on to the next crew member that joins the vessel. It is worth remembering that there are laws such as the MLC 2006 that are in place to protect seafarers, doing some investigation into what is in place onboard your vessel will help you to understand your rights.

For more information on MLC 2006 and cabin sharing visit the PYA website.

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