Maritime Labour Convention reaches 100th ratification

The 100th ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) has been marked by a ceremony at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) headquarters in Geneva.

It means that more than 96% of the world’s gross shipping tonnage is now covered by this internationally agreed standard which also applies to most of the seafarer labour supplying countries of the world.

Oman became the 100th ILO member state to ratify the convention.

ILO director-general, Guy Ryder, commented: “This ratification marks a global milestone and is a celebration of the courage of seafarers, shipowners and governments who, in 2006 dared to dream of an ILO convention that would consolidate 70 previously adopted conventions and recommendations. Since then, the MLC has become a worldwide reference for the maritime industry and the fourth pillar of the international maritime regime.”

Adopted by the ILO’s member states in February 2006, the convention brought together a large number of existing industry labour standards that no longer reflected contemporary working and living conditions, had low ratification levels, or inadequate enforcement and compliance systems. Combining these often very detailed instruments into one convention, makes it easier for countries to regulate and enforce consistent industry norms and standards, worldwide.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, also highlighted the importance of the ratification.

“Reaching 100 signatories is an important milestone,” Platten said. “As we saw throughout the pandemic and the crew change crisis, governments who have ratified the convention must stand by their words and take action to protect seafarers’ rights. Now more than ever it is vital that more governments ratify this important Convention and I hope that we will reach 150 signatories soon to bring it in line with the three International Maritime Organization pillar conventions of SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL.”

The 16-year-old convention – often dubbed the seafarers’ bill of rights – has come under fire a great deal, especially during the pandemic with many calling for urgent updates. The pandemic has shown shipping the weaknesses in labour regulatory regimes where workers are not enabled to take action at the workplace level. Other issues such as internet availability at sea have been raised repeatedly too.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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