Maritime Labour Convention

Exponential movement to achieve widespread ratification and effective implementation: The 1st anniversary of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

Today one year after entry force, 64 countries that are responsible for working and living conditions of seafarers on more than 80 per cent of the world’s fleet have ratified the Convention.

News | 20 August 2014
On 20 August 2012 the Philippines deposited its ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) with the International Labour Office. This ratification meant that the stringent formula for entry into force (at least 30 countries representing at least 33 per cent of the world gross tonnage of ships) was achieved and the long awaited entry into force of the MLC, 2006 was assured. Twelve months later on 20 August 2013 the MLC, 2006 entered into force with ratifications at that time by 45 countries representing more than 70 per cent of the world fleet. Today one year after entry force, 64 countries that are responsible for working and living conditions of seafarers on more than 80 per cent of the world’s fleet have ratified the Convention.

“The story of the MLC, 2006 and, particularly, the level of support among shipowners, seafarers and governments for this Convention is truly remarkable, said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Office. I fully expect that all 185 ILO members that have maritime interests, either as a home country to the world’s seafarers or as a flag or port State, will eventually ratify the MLC, 2006. In April this year, I witnessed the maritime industry coming together to deal with shared concerns about the abandonment of seafarers and other matters. Later this year, the important question of occupational safety health standards on board ships will be discussed at an international meeting and in early 2015 the maritime sector will move forward to address an issue of great importance to the industry - seafarers’ identity documents.This level of support and concern for some of the most vulnerable and essential of the world’s workers is heartening. It reminds us of the possibilities for international cooperation and for progress on establishing social and labour standards for all workers when there is a climate for constructive social dialogue between the workers and employers and governments.”
The MLC, 2006 establishes comprehensive minimum requirements for almost all aspects of working and living conditions for seafarers including, minimum age, conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection. It is designed, as a single coherent instrument, to secure the widest possible acceptability among governments, shipowners and seafarers committed to the principles of decent work. It focuses on a strong enforcement system to ensure compliance worldwide with seafarers’ rights in all areas, while giving governments a higher degree of autonomy in the way this objective is achieved. The Convention was adopted in 2006 after nearly five years of intensive international tripartite consultation.

Under the Convention every seafarer has, in addition to fundamental rights at work, the right to:

• a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards.
• fair terms of employment.
• decent working and living conditions on board ship.
• health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection.
Ms. Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department commented, “This anniversary is important as the MLC, 2006 entered a new stage of its life a year ago. The ideals and ideas of the shipowners and seafarers who called for this Convention are now being tested. Since 2013 not only have many more countries ratified, but also the innovative ship enforcement and compliance system, particularly for those ships that must be inspected and certified and are subject to port State control, including potential detentions in foreign ports, was put into operation as of 20 August 2013.

As the first year milestone has approached almost daily the Office has been asked about the actual impact of the MLC, 2006 for seafarers and how many ships have been found to be in breach of requirements. Have there been any changes experienced by seafarers and shipowners?

Although the ILO Office receives some informal information, the question of actual changes to conditions on board specific ships or the number of ship detentions, is really a matter for the flag State (the country where the ship is registered) or the regional port State control secretariats’ databases, which closely monitor these matters. However, the ILO will soon, through its long established supervisory system, play a key role in the MLC, 2006’s enforcement and compliance system and the concept of effective implementation through its supervisory system. This system, which is established under the Constitution of the ILO, requires that countries periodically file national reports regarding their implementation of the Conventions they have ratified. These reports are reviewed by the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations at their annual meeting in November and December. The views of this Committee are then considered by the International Labour Conference. The Committee of Experts provides expert advice to countries on whether they are effectively implementing their obligations under the Convention concerned. The national organizations representing workers and employers also have an important role in this reporting process. The national reports of the first 30 ratifying countries are due this year and I will be very interested to read these national reports as the MLC, 2006 covers so many different issues and has many new approaches that can pose a challenge for some countries to implement in their legal systems.”

In April 2014 the first meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee established under MLC, 2006 adopted amendments to the Code (the Standards and Guidelines) of the MLC, 2006 to better address the situation of abandonment of seafarers and shipowners’ liability for compensation for seafarers or their families in the event of a seafarer’s death or long term disability. These amendments were approved by the International Labour Conference in June 2014 and are expected to enter into force in 18 January 2017.

More information can be obtained on the ILO’s MLC, 2006 website which includes an FAQ and database and information about the recent amendments at:

Information about the ILO supervisory system is available at: /global/standards/lang--en/index.htm

Information about the upcoming maritime occupational safety and health meeting can be obtained at: /global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/events/lang--en/index.htm

Information about the STC meeting in April 2014 can obtained at: /global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/events/lang--en/index.htm