Since the turn of the new millennium, the shipping industry has been confronted with stringent regulations. Most of these regulations aim to enhance ship safety and protect the environment. A majority of the recent regulations have come through in the form of resolutions and conventions made by two main UN agencies – the IMO, or the International Maritime Organization, and the ILO, or the International Labour Organization. The ILO has four pillars of international maritime law. Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is one of them, with the other three being the SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL.
Representatives from the government, labour and the shipping industry adopted MLC 2006 at a special International Labour Conference organized by ILO in February 2006. A minimum number of nations need to ratify any convention for it to become a part of international marine law.
The shipping industry is unique in the diversity of its activities and global spread. It includes diverse groups, like ship owners, ship charterers, ship chandlers and crew management companies, which have diverse interests. This industry has a global spread in the true sense – a ship bearing the flag of a particular nation may be at a port of another country, carrying crew of a third country. Moreover, ships are mostly on international waters. These characteristics of the shipping industry made it essential for international standards to be adopted for ensuring the rights of seafarers.
On August 20, 2013, MLC 2006 will become part of the international laws governing minimum working and living standards for seafarers. While this is welcomed by seafarers, there is another reason for MLC 2006 gaining popularity. The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 also promotes fair competition, creating a level-playing field for quality owners of ships that fly the flags of the ratifying nations.
The new convention aims to comprehensively address all the working and living conditions that effect seafarers. Some of the aspects covered by MLC 2006 are:
MLC 2006 applies is to all ships on international or domestic voyages. It does not apply to ships navigating in inland waters or while a ship is within the jurisdiction of a particular port (in which case port laws will apply). Any vessel that is above 500 tonnage on an international voyage is mandated to carry a Maritime Labour Certificate (MLC) and a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC). The latter document proves that the ship complies with the latest convention. If a ship enters a port of a ratifying company, these two compliance documents will need to be presented, even if the ship bears the flag of a non-ratified nation.
Under ILO practice, conventions become a part of international marine laws 12 months after countries have submitted their ratifications. MLC 2006 needed to be ratified by at least 30 member nations, which represents more than 33% of the world’s gross shipping tonnage. By June 2013, as many as 47 states had ratified the certification.