Inside the Issues

CRUISE SHIPS New guidelines for collective agreements


Originally created in 1994 to help ITF affiliated national trade unions signing collective agreements for
seafarers in the cruise ship sector, the ITF’s Miami guidelines were revised in 2011 and are now part of the official maritime policy of the ITF.

The new guidelines take into account the latest international instruments of International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization. This will ensure that collective agreements signed with cruise operators are in line with the labour and maritime conventions.

In particular, the recommendations of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 are now incorporated into the Miami guidelines and will provide seafarers with benefits in respect of living conditions and contractual terms of their collective agreements.

Importantly, now all workers on a cruise vessel are defined as seafarers. This means that contractual terms will have to be harmonised, with benefits previously enjoyed by the nautical crew now applicable to all groups of workers on board – many of whom in the past were covered by contracts with different rights and obligations.

In addition, the MLC imposes strict rules on working organisation and hours of rest, creates a complaints procedure allowing seafarers to report cases where collective agreements are not complied with and regulates the manning agencies that supply seafarers to cruise operators.

The reasons behind the creation of the Miami guidelines date back to the time when the cruise market emerged as a highly competitive and deregulated sector of shipping compared with the rest of the industry.

Seafarers working on cruise vessels formerly did not enjoy the same contractual terms as their colleagues on other types of ships. For example, the hospitality crew – in the hotel, catering and related departments – needed agreements to guarantee security and decent conditions.

As a result, the efforts over many years of the ITF-affiliated unions in negotiating agreements with cruise operators have brought benefits to the seafarers that are not limited to wages but include, among other things:

  • better living spaces on board, such as recreational areas designed specifically for seafarers to relax in;
  • tours of duty and hours of work that take into account the busy schedule of today’s cruises;
  • special provision for pregnant seafarers;
  • better regulation of the manning agencies system;
  • grievance and arbitration procedures that allow seafarers to be represented in case of an industrial dispute.

The ITF estimates that by the year 2014 there will be some 302 cruise vessels operating in the cruise market – 402 if expedition and coastal cruise vessels are counted.

The number of seafarers employed on cruise ships stood at the end of 2010 at 193,000 at any one time. When those on vacation, undergoing shore training, on sick or maternity leave are included, the total is between 250,000 and 270,000.

The largest deployment of such seafarers is found on Bahamian-registered vessels, with approximately 58,000 seafarers, followed by 37,000 on Panamanian-registered ships. Next come Malta (23,000 seafarers), Italy (21,000), Bermuda (17,000), Netherlands (8,500), United Kindom (6,000) and US (1,300). Nearly 92 per cent of the seafarers in the cruise ship sector are covered by an ITF approved agreement based on the Miami guidelines.

Seafarers working on cruise ships should have their employment contact made available to them at the time when they sign on.

The ITF has undertaken to provide them with a booklet of the collective agreement. In addition, representatives of our affiliated unions regularly visit those cruise ships for which they hold a collective agreement and, in some companies, there are appointed union representatives on board who can deal with crew problems.

The ITF and its affiliated unions do not have a magic solution to all crew problems. But we need your feedback on issues that need to be addressed. Contact the union in your country or the ITF to help us to help you.