The best way to fulfill the goals of the year of the seafarer

“The Mariner: Building on the year of the Seafarer”: Theme of the third annual Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show (BIMCATS) held in Grand Bahamas, from 2 to 4 February 2011.

News | 10 February 2011

Grand Bahamas (ILO News) – “The Mariner: Building on the year of the Seafarer”. This is the theme under which the third annual Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show (BIMCATS) was held in Grand Bahamas, from 2 to 4 February 2011.

More than 300 delegates from 40 countries took part in the Conference that was opened by the Bahamas’ Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. The Bahamas is the third largest flag State in the world, with over 52 million gross tonnage and more that 1700 ships engaged in international voyages.

“It is not our goal to have the biggest fleet in the world. What we desire is to have the best and we are well on our way toward achieving this goal”, said the Prime Minister, noting that the Conference has grown increasingly important to the development of the maritime sector in the Bahamas.

Because of this commitment to the quality of the maritime sector, the Bahamas was the third major shipping country in the world, after Liberia and the Republic of Marshall Islands, to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) in February 2008. The Convention aims to achieve the twin goals of establishing decent work conditions for seafarers and of securing the level-playing field for shipowners, with strong protection against unfair competition from substandard ships.

“The tangible partnership and commitment demonstrated by the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Labour, the Bahamas Shipowners Association and the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas led to the ratification of the MLC, 2006 and is now working towards the effective implementation of the Convention. It is an excellent example for others to follow”, commented Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO, who brought the keynote address of the Conference.

The focus of BIMCATS this year was on the world’s seafarers, with an attempt to build on 2010, the year of the seafarer, as declared by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The first day of the Conference was dedicated to discussing the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 and its implementation. Dr. Doumbia-Henry reminded that 2011 is an important year as well for countries with a maritime interest, with February 23 marking the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 by the 94th International Labour Conference.

“While many changes have occurred since 2006, including many difficult political and economic events, concerns about living and working conditions for seafarers and the need to attract to and retain skilled workers in the sector have grown, not diminished. So the Convention and its goals remain even more relevant” said the Director of the ILO International Labour Standards Department.

The MLC, 2006 has a very demanding formula that must be met before it enters into force: the ratification by at least 30 countries with a total share of the world’s gross tonnage of at least 33 per cent. The reason for this formula reflects the importance that was placed on making sure that the majority of concerned maritime countries – flag states, port states, labour supplying States – are bound by it and that the Convention has a real impact.

As of today, the Convention has been ratified by 11 countries: Liberia, Marshall Islands, Bahamas, Panama, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria, Canada and most recently, St Vincent and the Grenadines. This brings the coverage of ships and seafarers on those ships to above 47 per cent of the world fleet, well above the required 33 per cent. However 19 more ratifications must be obtained to achieve the entry into force formula in 2011.

On this regard, Dr. Doumbia-Henry noted that “the single best way to fulfill the goals of the year of the seafarer will be to achieve the 30th ratification of the MLC, 2006 in 2011 with entry into force combined with effective implementation in all countries, in 2012”.