Although a variety of international legislationhas sought to deal with such abuses, it hasenjoyed limited success. The effectiveimplementation and enforcement of suchlegislation has been complex and largelydependent on action taken at a nationallevel; in particular, by flag and port Stateauthorities. Furthermore, the ability of shipowners to switch flags and thereby avoid their responsibilities has helped tocreate a two-tier system – to the advantageof the less conscientious owner. It was against this background that theInternational Labour Organisation (ILO)adopted the Maritime Labour Convention(MLC) in February 2006. The MLC resulted in a consolidation and update of 68 earlier ILOmaritime labour instruments, includingconventions and recommendations dating as far back as 1920.
Aims of the Convention
The Convention has three main aims:1) to protect seafarers’ rights;2) to redress the balance between ‘responsible’shipowners and those shipowners who areunethically benefiting from lower operatingcosts through the exploitation of seafarers;3) to provide a level playing field. The Convention seeks to provide a levelplaying field by granting wider powers of enforcement and protection from unfaircompetition between flag States. This isenshrined in the principle of ‘no morefavourable treatment’ set out in Article V (7)of the Convention. Ships flying the flags of non-Member States will, in future, be boundto conform to the minimum standards underthe MLC when in the territorial waters of aMember State.It is intended that the MLC should become the‘fourth pillar’ of the international regulatoryregime for quality shipping, complementingthe following key conventions adopted by theInternational Maritime Organisation (IMO):1) the
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
(SOLAS), 1974, as amended; 2) the
International Convention on Standardsof Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers
(STCW), 1978, as amended; and 3) the
International Convention for thePrevention of Pollution from Ships
, 1973, asmodified by the Protocol of 1978 relatingthereto (MARPOL 73/78).
Application and scope
The MLC applies to:a) ‘seafarers’ – which is given a broaddefinition at Article II (1)(f) as: ‘any personwho is employed or engaged or works in anycapacity on board a ship to which thisConvention applies’; and tob) ‘all ships, whether publicly or privatelyowned, ordinarily engaged in commercialactivities’.It does not apply to specific types of vessels,such as:a) ships navigating exclusively in inlandwaters close to the coast, in sheltered watersor areas where port regulations apply;
b) ships engaged in fishing
or similarpursuits; c) ships of traditional build such as dhowsand junks; andd) warships and naval auxiliaries. Furthermore, national authorities havelimited flexibility to exempt ships fromcertain requirements within the MLC; butonly providing those ships are under 200 gtand only to the extent that seafarers’ rightsare already covered by national laws,collective agreements, or other measures(Article II (6)). If there is any doubt as to whether the MLCapplies to a particular category of person orship, the relevant national authority must beconsulted, in addition to the applicableshipowners’ and seafarers’ organisations.
Structure of the Convention
Although a complex piece of legislation, theMLC is divided into four clear sections: aPreamble, Articles, Regulations and Code andAppendix. The Preamble presents the relevant contextin which the MLC was adopted.
Maritime Labour Convention 2006: An Overview
Most shipowners do their utmost to provide seafarers with safe working conditions and secureemployment. Unfortunately, there have also been examples of less conscientious ownersabusing their employees in a variety of ways – ranging from refusal to grant shore leave andthe non-payment of wages to complete abandonment.
NUMBER 4 JANUARY 2012
It should be noted that not all ILO conventions relevant to the maritime industry were consolidated in the MLC. For example, the
Seafarers' Identity Documents Convention
, 2003 (C 185) and the
Seafarers’ Pensions Convention
, 1946 (C 71).
For further information on IMO conventions, including the ratification status of each convention, see www.imo.org
Such ships are exempt from the Convention, as they do not fall within the definition of ‘ship’ that is provided in Article II (1) (i), MLC 2006.
For those involved in the fishing industry, reference should be made to the ILO
Work in Fishing Convention
, 2007 (C 188).