Training Future Rights Protectors

Jul 5, 2012

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

I have just returned from an intensive two-week course at the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labour Academy in Turin, Italy. I, along with 23 others, representing national maritime administrations, ship-owners, and trade unions from around the world participated in a “train the trainers” course designed for teaching the applications of the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) will provide MLC, 2006 training for port chaplains and other representatives of seafarers’ organizations.

The MLC, 2006 represents one of the most significant developments in the long history of seafarers’ rights law. In one agreement, it provides a comprehensive statement of seafarers’ rights—rights that have withstood the test of time as well as modern shipping realities. Most importantly, the MLC, 2006 reinforces the principle of respecting and honoring seafarers.

The MLC, 2006 will come into force after 30 countries, representing 33% of the world’s shipping tonnage, have ratified it. So far, 28 countries have ratified the Convention, meeting the tonnage requirement. I expect the remaining two countries will ratify the convention this month.

The Convention’s promise of improving seafarers’ rights and working conditions depends upon its effective implementation and enforcement. Port chaplains will play a key role in carrying out the MLC, 2006 and need to understand its protections for seafarers. The ILO Academy training was extremely helpful in helping me prepare high quality training for port chaplains consistent with that which government inspectors and union officials receive.