Maritime Labour Convention’s Big Day

Aug 20, 2013

by Douglas B. Stevenson
Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights (
Chairman, International Christian Maritime Association (

At long last, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) will come into force in 31 countries and on their ships. The Convention, created after five years of negotiation and compromise by governments, shipowners and unions with substantial input from the International Christian Maritime Association, is the most significant accomplishment in the entire history of seafarers’ rights law. In addition to setting international standards of decent working and living conditions for merchant seafarers and creating a level playing field of competition for quality shipowners, the MLC, 2006 also contains a framework for developing and sustaining shore-based welfare facilities.

The MLC, 2006 calls for its coming into force one year after 30 countries representing at least 33% of the world’s shipping tonnage have registered their ratifications with the International Labour Organization. On August 20, 2012, the 30th and 31st countries registered their ratifications, reaching the required threshold. The MLC, 2006 comes into force August 20, 2013, in the following countries and on ships flying their flags:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Benin
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Faroe Islands
  • Kiribati
  • Latvia
  • Liberia
  • Luxembourg
  • Marshall Islands
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Russian Federation
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Togo
  • Tuvalu

The MLC, 2006 will enter into force in the following countries and on their ships on the dates indicated (one year after each country ratified the Convention):

  • Barbados June 20, 2014
  • Finland January 9, 2014
  • France February 28, 2014
  • Germany August 16, 2014
  • Gibraltar August 7, 2014
  • Greece January 4, 2014
  • Isle of Man August 7, 2014
  • Japan August 5, 2014
  • Malta January 22, 2014
  • Morocco September 10, 2013
  • New Caledonia February 28, 2014
  • Nigeria January 18, 2014
  • Serbia March 15, 2014
  • South Africa June 20, 2014
  • United Kingdom August 7, 2014
  • Vietnam May 8, 2014

Fiji, Gabon, Hungary and Lebanon have informed the International Labour Organization that they have ratified the MLC, 2006 but have not yet completed the registration process.

Even though the MLC, 2006 will technically apply only in the countries that have ratified it and on their ships wherever they sail, the Convention will affect ships from non-ratifying countries, too. MLC, 2006 Member countries cannot give more favorable treatment to ships from countries that have not ratified the Convention than they do to those ships from countries that have. Therefore, all ships, whether from an MLC, 2006 Member country or not, calling at a port of an MLC, 2006 Member country can be required by port state control to comply with the Convention’s standards. Port chaplains in countries that have not ratified the MLC, 2006 cannot expect their countries’ port state control to enforce the Convention in their ports, but they can report MLC, 2006 deficiencies on ships from countries that have ratified the Convention to the vessel’s flag state authority or to an MLC, 2006 Member country where the ship might call.

The MLC, 2006’s promise to seafarers depends on effectively implementing its robust enforcement mechanisms that rely on port states, flag states, seafarers and any person with an interest in a ship’s safety or its seafarers’ safety and health (port chaplains and welfare workers). Port chaplains can play an important role in helping implement the MLC, 2006.

To assist them in their professional development and to sharpen their skills in taking advantage of the tools available in the MLC, 2006, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) has developed training programs geared specifically for maritime ministries and other seafarers’ welfare providers. The Institute has also developed MLC, 2006 training modules for port state control and flag state control inspectors. For further information on MLC, 2006 training available from SCI, please email [email protected].