Maritime Labour Convention 2006: The ‘Seafarers Bill of Rights’
Like me, many of our readers will have sailed or are sailing with well known, responsible and respected shipping companies that provided or provide good, safe working and living conditions. Unfortunately, however, many seafarers of many different nationalities and in all types of vessels have had to experience less than acceptable, and in some cases awful working and living conditions.
Over the years, Sea Breezes has on occasion, highlighted cases of exploitation and neglect of seafarers by unscrupulous owners. Such cases are not uncommon even today – in our September 2013 edition of Sea Breezes we featured the case of Indian seafarers stranded on their vessel off Suez, with very low supplies of water, food and fuel. They were helped by the Sailors Society.
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 more aptly and popularly known as the ‘Seafarers Bill of Rights’ came into force on August 20th, 2013. It was adopted by government, employer and workers representatives at a special International Labour Conference in 2006. The MLC sets basic acceptable standards for working and living conditions for seafarers globally, covering almost every aspect of their life onboard. Of course many shipowners already provide their seafarers with conditions above these standards, but many do not. This Convention, if properly implemented, policed and enforced will prevent many of the abuses and exploitation of seafarers that sadly still take place today.
Over 40 countries accounting for about three quarters of the world’s merchant tonnage ratified the MLC 2006 before the August deadline and more will follow. The MLC 2006 is viewed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as the fourth pillar of world wide maritime regulation taking its place alongside the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
This passing of what is a ‘Seafarers Bill of Rights’ into international law is a key and historic moment and should be welcomed by all sectors of our industry.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR