Douglas B. Stevenson (Chairman International Christian Maritime Association Director, Center for Seafarers' Rights of the Seamens' Church Institute of NY & NJ) writes :
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) creates a framework for developing and sustaining shore-based welfare facilities. The Convention obligates countries that have ratified the Convention to promote developing seafarers' welfare facilities in their ports, and where such facilities exist, to ensuring that they are easily accessible to seafarers. MLC, 2006 Member countries must:
• Require existing welfare facilities be available to all seafarers irrespective of nationality, religion, political opinion or social origin, or the flag State on which they are employed;
• Promote developing welfare facilities in consultation with shipowners' and seafarers'' organizations;
• Encourage establishing welfare boards to review welfare facilities and services to ensure that they are appropriate to the changing needs of seafarers.
The vast majority of shore-based welfare services and facilities are operated by voluntary Christian organizations affiliated with the International Christian Maritime Organization (ICMA). There are more than 526 ICMA affiliated seafarers' services and facilities in 126 countries, all of which have agreed to abide by the ICMA Code of Conduct including commitments to serve seafarers of all nationalities, religions, cultures, language, sex or race and to respect seafarers' personal values and beliefs. ICMA affiliated seafarers' welfare organizations have the requisite experience and skills to provide top quality shore-based welfare services and facilities contemplated by the MLC, 2006 – and they do it effectively and efficiently.
Fundraising remains an on-going challenge for voluntary seafarers' welfare organizations. The MLC, 2006 requires Member countries to promote shore-based seafarers welfare services and facilities, but it doesn't' require them to actually pay for them. The Convention recommends a number of funding sources, including public funds, port levies, and voluntary contributions.
National, regional and port welfare boards established under the MLC, 2006 can be very powerful mechanisms for establishing and sustaining shore-based welfare facilities and services. However, the boards must include more than shipowners' and seafarers' organizations in their memberships. They should also include the voluntary organizations that actually operate the facilities as well as port authorities and terminal operators. Broadening participation on welfare boards will increase the number stakeholders committed to providing and funding quality shore-based services.
Maintaining appropriate shore-based welfare services and facilities is not just an obligation of Member states. All maritime stakeholders, and the wider public that benefit from shipping, must work together to ensure that seafarers are properly welcomed in the ports they visit by providing them, among other things, proper shore-based welfare facilities.