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Maritime Labour Convention

ILO, Maritime sector to address abandonment of seafarers and shipowners’ liability

Media advisory | 04 April 2014
GENEVA – The world’s leading maritime nations and representatives of ship owners and seafarers, are to address the issues of abandonment of seafarers and the rapid settlement of claims for compensation in the case of a seafarer’s death or long-term disability at the first meeting of a Special Tripartite Committee established under the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006).

More than 300 maritime representatives from all regions of the world will gather at the ILO on 7-11 April to consider the two key proposals jointly submitted by the international representatives of ship owners and seafarers to amend the Code (Standards and Guidelines) of the MLC, 2006. The meeting will also be a major forum for an international exchange of views on issues encountered in national implementation.

As of March 2014, the ILO’s Abandonment of Seafarers Database listed 159 abandoned merchant ships, some dating back to 2006 with abandonment cases still unresolved. Many abandoned seafarers are aboard ships without pay, often for several months, and lack regular food supplies, medical care or means to return home.

The ILO and top government, shipowner and seafarer representatives are addressing abandonment issues —as well as contractual claims for death, injury or disability due to occupational illness or injury—under the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

The proposals for amendments concern the provision of financial security to better protect seafarers from the consequences of abandonment in foreign ports and to address the MLC, 2006 requirements that ship owners provide financial security for compensation in the event of death or long-term disability due to occupational injury, illness or hazard.

Seafarers are frequently exposed to difficult working conditions and particular occupational risks. Working far from home, they are vulnerable to potential abandonment in foreign ports when ship owners are no longer fulfilling their responsibilities.

If these amendments are adopted by the Committee and successfully meet the other conditions for entry into force, they will mark the first time in maritime history that the plight of abandoned seafarers and the provision of financial security for seafarers’ claims have been addressed in binding international law.

The MLC, 2006 was adopted at a Maritime session of the International Labour Conference in 2006 and came into force on 20 August 2013. To date, 56 ILO Member States have ratified the Convention, representing more than 80 percent of the world’s gross tonnage of ships.

There are more than 1.5 million seafarers in the world. A majority of these seafarers now have a right to be protected through national laws and practices applying the MLC, 2006 to the ships on which they work.

The meeting will also include a special event on Monday, 7 April with the presentation by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) of the “International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards 2014” for Seafarers’ Centre of the Year, Shipping Company of the Year, Port of the Year, and Welfare Personality of the Year.

Abandoned, but not alone
For the seafarers on the B Ladybug, every day is one of waiting—for their pay, for fresh food and water and for a way home. Though their plight isn’t an everyday occurrence, when it happens, it impacts them, their families and the maritime sector as well.