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The Maritime Labour convention comes into force

It will require enforcement and it’s centuries overdue – but it’s good to see a practical antidote to neo-liberal dumbing down and degrading of labour. From the ILO website (which has a lot of additional information):

The ILO will mark the coming into force of its historic Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 with a panel discussion bringing together high-level representatives of seafarers, shipowners, port authorities and the ILO.
Visit this page at 07:00 GMT on Tuesday 20 August and watch the event LIVE from Singapore’s harbour.

Basic facts on the Maritime Labour Convention 2006

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (“MLC, 2006”) establishes minimum working and living standards for all seafarers working on ships flying the flags of ratifying countries. It’s also an essential step forward in ensuring a level-playing field for countries and shipowners who, until now, have paid the price of being undercut by those who operate substandard ships. Questions and answers.

What is the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006)?

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 or MLC, 2006 is an international labour Convention adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It provides international standards for the world’s first genuinely global industry. Widely known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights,” the MLC, 2006 was adopted by government, employer and workers representatives at a special ILO International Labour Conference in February 2006.

It is unique in that it aims both to achieve decent work for seafarers and to secure economic interests through fair competition for quality ship owners. The Convention is comprehensive and sets out, in one place, seafarers’ rights to decent working conditions. It covers almost every aspect of their work and life on board including:

  • minimum age
  • seafarers’ employment agreements
  • hours of work or rest
  • payment of wages
  • paid annual leave
  • repatriation at the end of contract
  • onboard medical care
  • the use of licensed private recruitment and placement services
  • accommodation, food and catering
  • health and safety protection and accident prevention and
  • seafarers’ complaint handling

The Convention was designed to be applicable globally, easy to understand, readily updatable and uniformly enforced and will become the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) dealing with safety and security of ships and protection of the marine environment.

Why is the MLC, 2006 so important?
First, because it brings together, in one place, international minimum standards that ensure decent work for the estimated more than 1.5 million seafarers around the world whose work is essential to international trade as well as to an increasingly important form of tourism and recreational activity. Under the MLC, 2006 every seafarer has the right to:

  • a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards
  • fair terms of employment
  • decent working and living conditions on board ship
  • health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection

Second, because it will help to provide a level playing field for quality ship- owners operating under the flag of countries that have ratified the MLC, 2006. The goal is to ensure that decent working conditions go hand in hand with fair competition.

This MLC, 2006 shows how tripartite dialogue and international cooperation can operate constructively for the most globalized of industries, by concretely addressing the challenges to securing decent working and living conditions for seafarers, while simultaneously helping to ensure fair competition for ship- owners.


  1. Podargus
    August 18, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    The MLC seems like a good idea however the weakness lies in flag of convenience ships.The nations supplying those flags will not ratify the MLC out of the same self interest as that of the low life ship owners who use them.
    The only solution is for ratifying nations to prohibit entry of flag of convenience ships to their ports.

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