U.S. Lags on Convention Ratification

Aug 3, 2012

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

Cyprus recently became the 29th nation to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC). The Convention, which sets minimum international standards for seafarers’ living and working conditions on vessels engaged in international trade, is designed to come into force one year after 30 nations have ratified it. Russia has completed its internal ratification process and is expected to become the 30th ratifying nation when it submits ratification instruments to the ILO in the very near future. Sadly, the United States and several other major maritime nations have not yet ratified the Convention, causing great concern over the consequences these omissions will create for their seafarers and merchant fleets.

Often called the “fourth pillar” of international shipping standards, the MLC joins three other key maritime conventions of the International Maritime Organization on safety at sea, training, certification and watchkeeping standards and environmental protection. The MLC benefits seafarers, shipowners and maritime nations by ensuring decent working conditions for the world’s seafarers, providing a level playing field of fair competition for quality shipowners, improving maritime safety, and enhancing maritime security.

The ratification and implementation of the MLC not only protects a country’s seafarers and national fleets but also raises standards on ships from countries that have not ratified the Convention. The Convention contains a key element of port state control, meaning that countries that have ratified the Convention will require all ships—even those from countries that have not ratified the MLC—to adhere to MLC standards as a condition of port entry. Ships from countries that have not ratified the MLC will likely encounter lengthy port state control inspections in countries that have ratified the Convention.

I am urging the United States to ratify the MLC as soon as possible. Both American seafaring unions and shipowners favor ratifying the Convention, and many governmental authorities are already prepared to quickly implement it once it is ratified. 

The United States maintains a cumbersome process for ratifying labor conventions. Under United States law, treaties and conventions must be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent. The United States Secretary of Labor has a key role in promoting the review of these agreements. I have written to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, urging her to seek expeditious MLC ratification. I have also written to the senators on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations asking for prompt hearings to assess the United States’ capacity to ratify the MLC.

I urge you to join with me, asking the United States government to guarantee the rights of all parties concerned in international shipping. Recommend that the United States swiftly examine and approve the ratification of the MLC, ensuring the rights and protection in the workplace for seafarers.

Below, find examples of letters that you can send to the Senate and Secretary Solis.

Email Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to urge ratification of the MLC:

Secretary Hilda L. Solis

Contact your senator on the Foreign Relations Committee to support MLC today:

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA)

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Sen. James Risch (R-ID)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)


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