The European Council has approved a directive that intends to legalise an agreement signed between the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) regarding better working conditions for seafarers.

The approval has paved the way for the implementation of the ECSA-ETF agreement, which aims to create updated rules for improving working conditions of seafarers, many of whom are still facing abandonment without pay and being left behind for long periods without food supplies, as well as various other issues.

“This is an important step forward to improve the working conditions of seafarers and a successful example of sectorial social dialogue.”

The new rules are expected to require shipowners to provide financial support guaranteeing seafarers against the consequences of abandonment in an overseas port.

In addition, they are also anticipated to ensure the payment of contractual compensation in the event of death or long-term disability of a seafarer due to occupational injury, illness or hazard.

A series of changes were previously made to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) in 2014 in order to incorporate the new ECSA-ETF agreement into European Union (EU) law.

European Council president and Estonia Health and Labour Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski said: “This is an important step forward to improve the working conditions of seafarers and a successful example of sectorial social dialogue.

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“Today we have ensured that seafarers will be better protected across the EU, especially in cases of abandonment.

“In this day and age, no-one should be left behind without being able to return home.”

The Council aims to formally adopt the newly approved directive during an upcoming session.