From its first days, the member States of the ILO realized that in the world of work, seafarers and shipowners were different. Not land-based but working on the seas, they not only moved huge amounts of world trade even 86 years ago, but represented the most fluid and wide-ranging workforce on the planet.
So when the first International Labour Conference in June of 1919 began discussing working hours, the need for a special approach to working time and working conditions in the maritime sector became apparent. And a year later, the ILO held its 2nd International Labour Conference at Genoa, Italy devoted to seafarers. In all, ten Maritime Sessions of the International Labour Conference adopted 68 Maritime Conventions and Recommendations.
These instruments covered all aspects of working conditions at sea: minimum age of entry to employment, recruitment and placement, medical examination, articles of agreement, repatriation, holidays with pay, social security, hours of work and rest periods, crew accommodation, identity documents, occupational safety and health, welfare at sea and in ports, continuity of employment, vocational training and certificates of competency.
But times changed, and so did the volume of trade hauled by sea. Eventually, it became clear that the seafarers working on the “supertankers” and other ships needed a “super Convention” that not only covered their needs, but addressed the need of the shipowners and governments for fair competition as well.
Thus, the most recent ILO Convention was born. The 94th ILC adopted the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 in February, providing a comprehensive labour standard and setting the tone for future Conventions that will regulate not only a sector but address the issues posed by globalization. The new standard is not only a landmark on the seas but a pioneering contribution to making globalization fair.