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MLC 2006 Regulation 2.3 - Mandatory Hours of Work and Hours of Rest for Seafarers Requirements to Ensure that Seafarers have Regulated Hours of Work or Hours of Rest

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MLC 2006 Regulation 2.3  deals with Hours of Work and Hours of Rest for Seafarers.  Establishing either maximum hours of work or minimum hours of rest is essential in order to protect seafarers against fatigue due to excessive demands on their time and to ensure in the interests of safety, that hours of work and overtime (even if voluntary), in particular, does not exceed levels that are compatible with the safe and efficient discharge of duties on board.

 The MLC 2006 provisions with respect to minimum hours of rest are, for the most part, reflected in the amendments to the IMO’s STCW Convention that were adopted in June 2010. This means that it is likely that national provisions will already exist for seafarers covered by the STCW Convention.

The MLC 2006 requires that a country regulate either hours of work or hours of rest, in accordance with the parameters set out in Standard A 2.3. The Convention also provides information as to specific situations including drills, emergency situations and young seafarers.

The MLC 2006 defines 'hours of work' as the time during which seafarers are requested to do work on account of the ship, while 'hours of rest' means time outside hours of work which do not include short breaks.

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MLC 2006 Regulation 2.3 - Hours of Work and Hours of Rest for Seafarers (Summary)


Purpose: To ensure that seafarers have regulated hours of work or hours of rest



  • Hours of work and rest are regulated to avoid fatigue and to ensure that the ship is operated safely.
  • Normal working hours are based on an eight-hour day with one day of rest per week.
  • The flag State can decide whether to base the limits on maximum hours of work or minimum hours of rest.
  • In the event of an emergency where the safety of the ship and crew are in danger, or to give assistance to other ships or persons in distress at sea, the Captain can suspend the work schedule until the problem is resolved. If normal working hours are disrupted by emergencies or unscheduled call-outs you are entitled to an adequate compensatory rest period.

seafarer work and rest

      Picture: Minimum Hours of Work & Minimum Hours of Rest Credits: ITF

  • Musters and all other drills must take place with minimal disturbance to periods of rest.
  • All ships have to display a table with shipboard working arrangements in the working language of the ship and in English. It must include: schedule of service at sea and service in port and, maximum hours of work or minimum hours of rest required by law or by applicable CBAs.
  • Records must be kept of hours of work and hours of rest so that they can be checked to ensure compliance with the regulations. You must receive an endorsed copy of your hours or work/rest.
  • There are additional guidelines designed to ensure protection of young seafarers. You should not have to work for more than eight hours a day and 40 hours per week. You should have enough time for meals, at least one hour for the main meal of the day and 15-minute breaks after every two hours, unless this interferes with agreed training programs.

Title 2. Conditions of Employment

Regulation 2.3; Code Standard A2.3 and Guideline B2.3


MLC 2006 Regulation 2.3 - Hours of Work and Hours of Rest

Purpose: To ensure that seafarers have regulated hours of work or hours of rest
  1. Each Member shall ensure that the hours of work or hours of rest for seafarers are regulated.
  2. Each Member shall establish maximum hours of work or minimum hours of rest over given periods that are consistent with the provisions in the Code.

Standard A2.3 - Hours of Work and Hours of Rest

  1. For the purpose of this Standard, the term:
    1. hours of work means time during which seafarers are required to do work on account of the ship;
    2. hours of rest means time outside hours of work; this term does not include short breaks.
  2. Each Member shall within the limits set out in paragraphs 5 to 8 of this Standard fix either a maximum number of hours of work which shall not be exceeded in a given period of time, or a minimum number of hours of rest which shall be provided in a given period of time.
  3. Each Member acknowledges that the normal working hours’ standard for seafarers, like that for other workers, shall be based on an eight-hour day with one day of rest per week and rest on public holidays. However, this shall not prevent the Member from having procedures to authorize or register a collective agreement which determines seafarers’ normal working hours on a basis no less favourable than this standard.
  4. In determining the national standards, each Member shall take account of the danger posed by the fatigue of seafarers, especially those whose duties involve navigational safety and the safe and secure operation of the ship.
  5. The limits on hours of work or rest shall be as follows:
    1. maximum hours of work shall not exceed:
      1. 14 hours in any 24-hour period; and
      2. 72 hours in any seven-day period; or
    2. minimum hours of rest shall not be less than:
      1. ten hours in any 24-hour period; and
      2. 77 hours in any seven-day period.
  6. Hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least six hours in length, and the interval between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.
  7. Musters, fire-fighting and lifeboat drills, and drills prescribed by national laws and regulations and by international instruments, shall be conducted in a manner that minimizes the disturbance of rest periods and does not induce fatigue.
  8. When a seafarer is on call, such as when a machinery space is unattended, the seafarer shall have an adequate compensatory rest period if the normal period of rest is disturbed by call-outs to work.
  9. If no collective agreement or arbitration award exists or if the competent authority determines that the provisions in the agreement or award in respect of paragraph 7 or 8 of this Standard are inadequate, the competent authority shall determine such provisions to ensure the seafarers concerned have sufficient rest.
  10. Each Member shall require the posting, in an easily accessible place, of a table with the shipboard working arrangements, which shall contain for every position at least:
    1. the schedule of service at sea and service in port; and
    2. the maximum hours of work or the minimum hours of rest required by national laws or regulations or applicable collective agreements.
  11. The table referred to in paragraph 10 of this Standard shall be established in a standardized format in the working language or languages of the ship and in English.
  12. Each Member shall require that records of seafarers’ daily hours of work or of their daily hours of rest be maintained to allow monitoring of compliance with paragraphs 5 to 11 inclusive of this Standard. The records shall be in a standardized format established by the competent authority taking into account any available guidelines of the International Labour Organization or shall be in any standard format prepared by the Organization. They shall be in the languages required by paragraph 11 of this Standard. The seafarers shall receive a copy of the records pertaining to them which shall be endorsed by the master, or a person authorized by the master, and by the seafarers.
  13. Nothing in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this Standard shall prevent a Member from having national laws or regulations or a procedure for the competent authority to authorize or register collective agreements permitting exceptions to the limits set out. Such exceptions shall, as far as possible, follow the provisions of this Standard but may take account of more frequent or longer leave periods or the granting of compensatory leave for watchkeeping seafarers or seafarers working on board ships on short voyages.
  14. Nothing in this Standard shall be deemed to impair the right of the master of a ship to require a seafarer to perform any hours of work necessary for the immediate safety of the ship, persons on board or cargo, or for the purpose of giving assistance to other ships or persons in distress at sea. Accordingly, the master may suspend the schedule of hours of work or hours of rest and require a seafarer to perform any hours of work necessary until the normal situation has been restored. As soon as practicable after the normal situation has been restored, the master shall ensure that any seafarers who have performed work in a scheduled rest period are provided with an adequate period of rest.

Guideline B2.3 - Hours of Work and Hours of Rest

Guideline B2.3.1 - Young Seafarers

  1. At sea and in port the following provisions should apply to all young seafarers under the age of 18:
    1. working hours should not exceed eight hours per day and 40 hours per week and overtime should be worked only where unavoidable for safety reasons;
    2. sufficient time should be allowed for all meals, and a break of at least one hour for the main meal of the day should be assured; and
    3. a 15-minute rest period as soon as possible following each two hours of continuous work should be allowed.
  2. Exceptionally, the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Guideline need not be applied if:
    1. they are impracticable for young seafarers in the deck, engine room and catering departments assigned to watchkeeping duties or working on a rostered shiftwork system; or
    2. the effective training of young seafarers in accordance with established programs and schedules would be impaired.
  3. Such exceptional situations should be recorded, with reasons, and signed by the master.
  4. Paragraph 1 of this Guideline does not exempt young seafarers from the general obligation on all seafarers to work during any emergency as provided for in Standard A2.3, paragraph 14.

Disclaimer: For general information purpose only - please check with ILO MLC 2006 for the latest requirements and accurate info

LAST UPDATED ON Dec 11, 2019