The Maritime Labour Convention

SHIPPING: Described as "the seafarers' Bill of Rights", the Maritime Labour Convention is expected to come into force in the next couple of years, provided the required numbers of acceptances have been lodged with its "parent"- the International Labour Organisation.

The effectiveness of any international convention rests with its implementation - the way in which it is put into practice - and that of the MLC is not a simple matter, as it affects every one of the tens of thousands of ships at sea, flying so many different flags.

The implementation process will require new responsibilities to be exercised by every flag state, the port states visited by ships, by maritime employers and by those 1.5 million seafarers who operate ships all around the world. So it is no small matter!

The obligations of these various parties to the convention are many and varied and will involve a considerable amount of training. It is important that the same standards apply around the world, so that hundreds of inspectors will have to be trained in the details of the new regime. Typically they will be people who already visit ships to examine their compliance with other international conventions, but these surveyors will have a whole range of new fields to examine, from the employment contracts of the seafarers to the standards of accommodation that are provided and quality of food and living conditions.

And while the inspections of ships themselves are detailed, they are also time-consuming. A big ferry or passenger ship, with a lot of crew, could take several days to inspect.

For the industry itself, the many good employers will find very little in the way of additional areas they need to look at; rather, their responsibilities will be to ensure that their contracts and employment conditions comply in detail with the international standards specified in the convention. Others may need to take a step up to a higher level of compliance.

Sometimes it will be a complex business. Some big owners and operators and ship managers run ships under many different flags and dozens of separate agreements and payment arrangements for the many nationalities of crew members they will employ. All have to be examined to make sure they comply with the convention provisions. Some companies are very international organisations, operating business units running the ships in many different countries. Flag states also have to tailor their own national laws to incorporate the new convention and this is a time-consuming business to find legislative time to make such arrangements.

But the MLC is very important for all parts of the shipping industry as a modern, universally applicable convention that will greatly improve maritime employment in the 21st century.

Source: BIMCO

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