A new global convention governing maritime labor rights has reached a required threshold to enter into force in 12 months, the International Labor Organization said Monday.
The ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) was recently ratified by Russia and the Philippines, meaning the required 30 ILO member states had approved the international regulation. It goes into effect from August 2013.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Shipping Federation (ISF) welcomed the news, but warned that ship owners will need to ensure they are ready before the new regime comes into force.
The MLC will be subject to port state control, including the potential for more detailed inspections if ships are thought not to comply, and the possibility of detention in serious cases of non-compliance or where hazardous conditions exist.
“The MLC – the seafarers’ bill of rights – is a genuine agent for real change,” said Dave Heindel, chairman of the ITF Seafarers’ Section. “It has the potential to make a real difference to all seafarers, regardless of nationality or the flag of the ship on which they serve. Its entry into force will be the culmination of over 10 years of collective effort by the ILO social partners.
“At last, we will have a ‘one stop shop’ for labor standards which we are confident will be genuinely implemented and enforced on a global basis," he said. "It means that all seafarers should soon be able to enjoy comprehensive protection of their fundamental rights. It also means good employment practice across the industry so that responsible employers, as represented by ISF, are not disadvantaged by the irresponsible minority.”
ISF Labour Affairs Committee Chairman Arthur Bowring said the groups expect more countries to ratify the convention over the coming year.
“This convention is the result of tripartite negotiation over a lengthy period, which means that the labor standards which we have all agreed can be supported by governments, ship owners and seafarers giving us a uniform global framework of sound employment standards that is required by both shipowners and seafarers,” he said.
An important feature of the convention’s enforcement will be the issue of "Maritime Labor Certificates" by flag administrations following an inspection. There is also a requirement for ships to complete and maintain on board a "Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance."
The MLC addresses a wide range of matters, including the obligations of shipping companies with respect to seafarers’ contractual arrangements, the responsibilities of manning agencies, working hours, health and safety, crew accommodation, catering standards, and seafarers’ welfare.
Under the tripartite ILO process, ITF and ISF were responsible for negotiating the text of the new convention with governments, on behalf of maritime employers and seafarers’ trade unions, prior to its adoption in 2006.
“The vast majority of companies should have no difficulty complying with the substance of the convention, since in large part this is derived from existing ILO maritime standards and accepted good employment practice,” Bowring said. “However, the enforcement mechanism is new, and it will be important to avoid teething problems when some of the more detailed requirements are applied and interpreted. It will therefore be most important for all ship operators to ensure that they are ready.” - Eric Johnson