GENEVA, Switzerland (ILO News) ─ The Government of Canada deposited its instrument of ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 with the International Labour Office on 15 June. Canada is the first North American country to ratify this key maritime labour Convention, sometimes called the “super convention”, adopted by the 94th International Labour Conference (Maritime) in Geneva in February 2006.
Canada’s ratification is especially significant as it is a major port State with key international ports on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Canada has been an active participant in the regional Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port State control (Paris MOU) since 1988 and became the first non-European member to be accepted for membership in 1994. Canada is also one of the founding members of the Tokyo Memorandum of Agreement on port State control (Tokyo MOU) involving countries with Pacific Ocean ports. Canada also has important flag State and maritime labour supply interests.
Canada is the 10th country to ratify the Convention and joins forces with Spain, the first European Union country to ratify, and the four largest flag States in the world, the Bahamas, Liberia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and Panama. Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Bulgaria all countries with important maritime labour interests have also ratified the Convention.
Canada took a leadership role throughout the more than five-years of preparation leading to the adoption of the Convention. Canada also actively contributed to ILO follow up actions after the adoption of MLC, 2006 by participating in high-level tripartite missions to assist other countries to move to ratification, and chaired the Tripartite Expert Meeting in September 2008 that adopted the Guidelines for port State control officers carrying out inspections under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
Canada’s ratification reflects its long-standing commitment to the ILO and support for international labour standards and the importance of Decent Work, particularly for seafarers. Since 1919 Canada has ratified 28 international labour Conventions, 11 of which are maritime labour Conventions, including the important Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (No.147) the predecessor to the MLC, 2006.
ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola, said, “This ratification by Canada sends an important signal to other countries about the importance of decent conditions of work for seafarers as a key aspect of ensuring fair competition among shipowners. The Convention’s provisions for improving the working and living conditions of seafarers will help to meet the demand for quality shipping, which is so crucial to the global economy. This ratification is also a major step forward towards the ultimate entry into force of this important ILO Convention.”
Cleopatra Doumbia- Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO commented that: “A key aspect of the MLC, 2006 is its “teeth” at the ship-board level. The inspection of foreign ships coming into ports (port State control (PSC)) is a very important component of the Convention’s strengthened compliance and enforcement system. Once the MLC, 2006 enters into force ships coming into Canada’s ports on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts will be subject to port State control for compliance with requirement of the Convention even if the flag State of the ship has not ratified the MLC, 2006.”
“The Government of Canada is committed to improving working conditions for seafarers in Canada and around the world, while advancing fair labour rules for the shipping industry,” said Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt. “By ratifying this Convention, our government affirms our dedication to working with our international partners to promote workers’ rights.”
One of the two requirements for entry into force of the MLC, 2006 (ratifications to cover 33 per cent of the world gross tonnage (GT)) was achieved more than a year ago. The ratification by Canada now brings protection to the world’s seafarers working on nearly 46% of the world fleet (by GT).
Canada’s ratification in 2010, the International Year of the Seafarer, marks an important “one third of the way” step towards achieving the second requirement of 30 ratifying countries. Progress in many other countries indicates that the number of ratifications needed for entry into force will be achieved, as expected, in 2011, the fifth anniversary of the Convention, if not before. Once this second requirement is met the Convention will enter into force 12 months later.
Aimed at protecting the world's 1.2 million or more seafarers, the MLC, 2006 addresses the evolving realities and needs of an industry that handles 90 per cent of international trade. It sets out a seafarers' "bill of rights" and is intended to be the “fourth pillar” in the international shipping regulation complementing major maritime Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on environmental protection and ship safety and security. It sets minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship and contains provisions on almost every aspect of working life including minimum age, medical fitness, conditions of employment, repatriation, hours of work and rest, leave, wages, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, medical care, occupational safety and health, access to onshore welfare facilities and social security. Importantly the MLC, 2006 establishes a strong compliance and enforcement mechanism based on flag State inspection of all ships and, for ships 500 GT and above engaged in international voyages, mandatory certification of seafarers’ working and living conditions. This is supported by port State inspection of ships to ensure ongoing compliance between inspections. The Convention also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry and help secure universal application and enforcement.