Stevenson Advocates for Mariners at ILO Meetings

Feb 17, 2016

by Douglas B. Stevenson, Esq., Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights

In my capacity as chair of International Christian Maritime Association’s (ICMA) Standing Delegation to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), I, along with vice-chair Ken Peters, represented ICMA at two recent back-to-back meetings.

ILO, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland creates international standards for decent working conditions. Unique among specialized agencies of the United Nations, the ILO includes representatives of trade unions and employers in addition to governments in its deliberations.  

Seafarers’ welfare is a high priority item on the ILO maritime sector’s agenda. Because organizations connected to ICMA provide almost all seafarers’ services worldwide, the organization has—since its founding in 1969—played a prominent role as a non-governmental organization in ILO deliberations.

Meeting of the Maritime Labour Convention Special Tripartite Committee (STC)

The Special Tripartite Committee (STC) considered proposals to amend the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) that would …

  • Require shipowners to pay seafarers’ wages while held captive by pirates
  • Address shipboard harassment and bullying
  • Extend the validity of MLC, 2006 inspection certificates in certain circumstances

ICMA strongly supported the principle of paying wages to seafarers while held captive by pirates, as did all virtually all other STC participants. The STC got bogged down, however, on agreeing to technical language acceptable to all. The STC created a tripartite working committee to prepare proposals, including amending the MLC, 2006 to address the issues related to protecting seafarers’ wages when held captive by acts of piracy and armed robbery. The working group is to present proposals to the STC before its next meeting.

The STC adopted a recommendation to amend the MLC, 2006 by including bullying and harassment in guidelines for health and safety protection. The STC also adopted a recommendation to amend the MLC, 2006 by allowing extensions of inspection certificates for up to five months in certain circumstances.

Ad Hoc Tripartite Maritime Committee for the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention

At the conclusion of the STC, the Ad Hoc Tripartite Maritime Committee for the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention convened to update the technical requirements for Seafarers’ Identity Documents issued under the Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention (ILO-185). The technology for biometric identification documents that existed when ILO-185 was adopted in 2003 is now obsolete, and card readers for that technology are no longer commercially available. The committee agreed to amend the annex to ILO-185 by adopting modern standards used in the aviation industry. While discussions around biometric standards were considered, it was heartening to hear statements by governments, unions and shipowners on the importance of ILO-185 in promoting seafarers’ shore leave access. The committee adopted a resolution on facilitating seafarers’ access to shore leave.

Ken and I briefed committee participants of seafarers’ shore leave issues observed by port chaplains, and we presented an introductory statement on behalf of ICMA during the committee’s plenary meeting.

Read the Statement to the Ad Hoc Tripartite Maritime Committee for the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003 (No. 185) here.