Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) Becomes Effective in August 2013

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006 starts enforcement in August, 2013, affecting the working conditions of more than 1.2 million mariners. Now that the MLC is coming into effect, sailors, ship owners, and nation states can expect international consistency in maritime laws and regulations regarding work environment, employment conditions, as well as health and medical issues.

Working and living conditions -both on board and on shore- have been standardized internationally to prevent the problems of conflicting jurisdiction and regional maritime law. Under the convention, all ships weighting 500 tons or more must comply with all minimum requirements specified under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) needed a minimum of 30 countries to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention. As of August 2012, the Maritime Labour Convention has been ratified by 35 countries, representing 67% of the world’s shipping.

The convention is organized into 5 main Titles:

1. Minimum Requirements for seafarers to work on ships

  • Minimum age: must be 16 year old, or 18 for night work or for hazardous areas
  • Medical certificate that assures fitness to work
  • Training for work duties and personal safety
  • Proper recruitment and placement, as well as proper registration, complaint procedures, and compensation if recruitment is unsuccessful

2. Conditions of Employment 

  • Clear, legally enforceable maritime work contracts that include standards set forth by existing collective bargaining agreements
  • Mariner wages that are paid every month, and can be transferred to family upon request
  • Standardized hours of rest and hours of work for all marine workers
  • Official right to annual leave and shore leave
  • Seafarers do not have to pay for repatriation
  • Seafarer unemployment benefits for ship’s loss or foundering
  • Manning levels should always be sufficient on all ships

3.  Accommodation, Recreation, Food and Catering

  • Ship accommodations and facilities should promote seafarer’s health and well being
  • Food quality, quantity, and water must be regulated by the ship’s flag state. The ship’s cooks and all other food preparers should be properly trained.

4. Health Protection, Medical Care, Welfare and Social Security Protection

  • Medical care provided on board and ashore
  • Ship owner’s liability—form of worker’s compensation for seafarers, which includes at least 16 weeks of wages after the start of illness or injury
  • Standard health and safety protection and marine worker accident prevention
  • Access to shore based welfare facilities, which should be accessible to all seamen regardless of race, sex, religion, or political affiliation
  • Social Security coverage for all mariners.

5. Compliance and Enforcement

  • Flag states are responsible for enforcement
  • MLC applies to ships of non-member countries if they plan to call to ports of member states
  • Labor agencies are to be inspected, to ensure that they are in compliance with the MLC

The purpose of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is to ensure basic universal rights for seafarers around the world, in terms of reasonable working conditions, medical and health protection, accommodations, and social security benefits. The difficult part comes with the consistent implementation of the convention throughout the world. Certification and inspection will require a lot of time, effort, and resources, so ratifying governments and the maritime industry must work together to achieve compliance.

Ships that choose to remain uncertified or sail under the jurisdiction of non-ratifying states may have to endure more red tape and delays when entering the ports of ratifying states. Hopefully, the hassle and cost that comes with being uncertified will encourage all ships to become certified, or for more countries to ratify the MLC.

Overall, the convention is supported by many of the world’s seafarers, ship owners, and nation states. Hopefully, the Maritime Labour Convention will be properly enforced by all ratifying countries, which should improve the working and living conditions of mariners from all corners of the globe.

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