MLC 2006 - An Opportunity for Decent Labour Standards

August 14, 2013

Natalie Shaw 1Natalie Shaw (Director Employment Affairs, International Chamber of Shipping) writes :

In 2006, the ILO adopted the MLC covering welfare for life at sea. This enters into force in August 2013. To date 45 countries have ratified and a further 19 countries are likely by year end.

Ship operators must comply with requirements derived from existing ILO standards and accepted good employment practice. Vessel of ratifying Flag states carrying required documentation will find Port State Control easier than those from States which have not. A new enforcement mechanism requires knowledge of detailed flag state requirements. Time will tell whether this will work.

Certification is the priority for shipowners and other stakeholders particularly the Maritime Labour Certificate issued to ships after a Flag State inspection, or by a recognized organization acting on its behalf. The ML Certificate is issued to a ship rather than a company as per Certificate issued for ISM. This is prima facie evidence of complying with MLC standards within the Declaration. Certificates normally last five years, with intermediate inspection after two - three years.

Ships must prepare and maintain a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance ("DMLC")to show continued compliance and help inspectors check national requirements are properly implemented.

The flag state should issue a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) showing national requirements for on board working and living conditions attached to the Maritime Labour Certificate.

Part I is prepared by the flag state identifies matters for inspection.

Part II identifies corporate measures per ship ensuring compliance between inspections.

Detailed advice on specific flag state requirements for shipowners preparing format and content as shipowners to follow is required.

It demonstrates ongoing compliance with detailed MLC on board requirements, records taken and verified, and procedures for potential non-compliance.

Much information can be kept with the ISM System to simplify inspections and reduce unnecessary duplication. Both port state control and flag state inspectors use this so companies should demonstrate adherence to the spirit and letter of MLC requirements. ISM and MLC compliance documentation may overlap as both require certification inspections every five years and intermediate inspections between years two and three so these may be scheduled concurrently. Compliance requirements should not be underestimated. While several provisions are in STCW and ISM others are new. STCW 2010 amendments already apply and are many flags use them eg for minimum rest hours, for primary reference.

Careful preparation and provision of clear, timely flag State advice on the national certification process implementing the MLC should deliver a global level playing field of decent maritime labour standards. Most seafarers' employment conditions already match or exceed those in national shore-based employment crucial to ensure we attract and retain seafarers.

Shipping is the world's first truly global industry, ships may be owned in one country, managed from another, registered in a third and using seafarers from many more. It has struggled to effectively function with differing applicable labour regulations whenever a ship enters a port of a different country. Spending weeks on board ship presents challenges both to crew and to employers. Generous pay and conditions are important but responsible employers believe seafarers should access fundamental rights irrespective of their ship's flag. Theoretically, each ratifying State commits to ensuring decent working conditions on its vessel. Ratification is one thing, ensuring everything is ready is quite another. Flag States must develop compliance measures for their registers and provide ships certification needed for global Port State Control. Ratifying countries can conduct PSC checks on entry into force. A European Directive concurrently transposes many MLC elements for EU members inspecting ships of all flags.

The challenges are great but achievable. States have had years to implement national laws and regulations requiring thorough compliance only possible if sufficient resources are allocated.

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