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The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (“MLC 2006”) went into effect in China on 20 August 2013

2013-09-05

MLC 2006 was adopted by the International Labor Organization ("ILO") at the 94th Maritime Session of the International Labour Convention ("ILC") on February 7, 2006. MLC 2006 is an international agreement that has essentially revised and replaced, upon its effective date, most of the existing ILO maritime labor instruments and recommendations adapted since 1920, and consolidated those labor instruments into one globally applicable and uniformly enforceable legal instrument. MLC 2006 went into effect in China on 20 August 2013.

 

1. The Necessity of Formulation

 

The decision by the ILO to move forward to create this major new maritime labour Convention was the result of a joint resolution in 2001 by the international seafarers’ and shipowners’ organizations, later supported by governments. 

 

They pointed out that the shipping industry is “the world’s first genuinely global industry” which “requires an international regulatory response of an appropriate kind – global standards applicable to the entire industry”. The industry called on the ILO to develop “an instrument which brings together into a consolidated text as much of the existing body of ILO instruments as it proves possible to achieve” as a matter of priority “in order to improve the relevance of those standards to the needs of all the takeholders of the maritime sector”. 

 

It was felt that the very large number of the existing maritime Conventions, many of which are very detailed, made it difficult for governments to ratify and to enforce all of the standards. Many of the standards were out of date and did not reflect contemporary working and living conditions on board ships. 

 

In addition, there was a need to develop a more effective enforcement and compliance system that would help to eliminate substandard ships and that would work within the well-established international system for enforcement of the international standards for ship safety and security and environmental protection that have been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

 

2. Main Contents

 

MLC 2006 encompasses and updates the requirements of a number of existing ILO Conventions with the aim of establishing a comprehensive international instrument governing the working and living conditions for seafarers and creating conditions of fair competition for shipowners. With these principles in mind, MLC 2006 establishes specific standards and detailed guidance as to how to implement these standards at the national level though its Articles, Regulations, and Code.

 

MLC 2006 Articles and Regulations deal with the core rights and principles and the basic obligations of countries that have ratified the Convention. 

 

MLC 2006 Regulations and the Code are organized into general areas under five Titles, each of which contains groups of provisions relating to a particular right or principle or enforcement measure, as follows: 

(1) Title 1 - Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, which addresses minimum age, medical certificates, training and qualifications, recruitment, and placement; 

(2) Title 2 - Conditions of employment, which addresses employment agreements, wages, hours of work and rest, leave entitlement, repatriation, compensation in the event of loss of a ship, manning levels, career and skill development, and seafarer employment opportunities; 

(3) Title 3 - Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, which addresses standards for accommodation, recreational facilities, and food and catering; 

(4) Title 4 - Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection, which addresses medical care, shipowner's liability, health and safety and accident prevention, access to shore welfare facilities, and social security; 

(5) Title 5 - Compliance and enforcement, which addresses flag State responsibilities, port State responsibilities, and labor supply responsibilities.

 

Many of the provisions of existing maritime labour Conventions, which relate to the method of implementing basic seafarers’ rights (rather than to the content of those rights), have been transferred to the non-mandatory Part B Guidelines of the Code. Their placement in the mandatory Regulations and Part A (Standards) could have resulted in clear obstacles to ratification.

 

Part A and Part B of the Code are interrelated. The provisions of Part B, called Guidelines, while not mandatory, are helpful and sometimes essential for a proper understanding of the Regulations and the mandatory Standards in Part A. In some cases, the mandatory Standards in Part A are so generally worded it may be difficult to implement them without the guidance in the corresponding provisions of Part B.

 

The special status given to Part B of the Code is based on the idea of firmness on principles and rights combined with flexibility in the way those principles and rights are implemented. Without this innovation, the MLC, 2006 could never aspire to wide-scale ratification.

 

August 30,2013
Shanghai International Shipping Institute

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