A Pacific regional tripartite workshop considered efforts by ILO tripartite constituents in the area to ratify and implement the ILO Maritime Labour Convention and strengthen tripartite networks within the Pacific maritime sector.
The workshop that was held in Nadi, Fiji from 27 to 29 October 2010 brought together seafarers, ship-owners and government labour and maritime officers from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to promote the ratification and implementation of the MLC, adopted by the ILO’s International Labour Conference in 2006.
To date, one of two requirements for entry into force of the MLC, 2006 – ratifications by at least 33 per cent of the world gross tonnage – in 2009, has been reached and even exceeded. The coverage is currently 48% of world gross tonnage. The second requirement, ratification by 30 states, is within reach for 2011 or early 2012. So far, 11 ILO Member States have ratified the Convention. (For more information)
The Asia-Pacific region supplies over 60 per cent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers and is the location of a significant number of important flag states making up the world’s merchant shipping fleet. In the Pacific region, economic development, trade and maritime transport are inextricably linked. However despite the critical role of seafarers, their opportunities for decent work are often limited.
With the assistance of the ILO and the Pacific International Maritime Lawyers Association, delegations from Pacific island countries analysed existing ‘gaps’ in their domestic maritime law and policy with respect to current application of the MLC, 2006. Delegations then considered how each country could address these challenges and developed Country Action Plans to promote the rapid ratification and implementation of the MLC, 2006 in each country.
Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Labour, Taito Waqa, said that the workshop helped Fiji gain a better understanding of the Convention and that Fiji is planning to ratify the Convention before the end of next year. Since the island is tourism oriented, the Convention would eventually create additional job opportunities. “This will ensure locals getting jobs on cruise ships as they are increasingly becoming a major tourism branch for our nation”, he said.
The Marshall Islands is one of the world’s four main shipping nations in terms of tonnage bearing its flag and was one of the first 11 States to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention. According to Mark Davis, from the International Transport Workers Federation, “it is important that other Pacific countries operating flags of convenience follow the Marshall Islands example because this would help ship owners respect international regulations in terms of seafarers’ working and living conditions.” Vanuatu and Tuvalu similarly operate open shipping registries.
“The MLC, 2006 helps to establish a level playing-field for quality shipowners, while at the same time providing concrete measures to secure decent work for seafarers who can expect when the Convention enters into force that irrespective of the ship on which they work they enjoy the rights contained in this Convention. They include fundamental rights at work, wages, hours of work and rest, accommodation, health and safety and social security protection . These minimum standards concerning living and working conditions make a major contributors to safety at sea and the protection of the marine environment” said Ms Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department.