Workshops Answer Questions about MLC, 2006

Jun 26, 2013

by Ryann Hall, Intern, Center for Seafarers’ Rights

Earlier this month, Douglas B. Stevenson, Director of the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights, and I led two separate workshops on the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006)—one for a private management company in Connecticut and the other for US Coast Guard port state control inspectors at Coast Guard Sector New York. I observed how the upcoming implementation of the convention will affect their respective roles in the maritime industry.

The MLC, 2006 will come into force on August 20, 2013, and have a significant effect upon the maritime industry. Although the United States has not ratified the Convention, 40 nations representing more than 70% of the world’s merchant fleet (including the Bahamas, Cyprus, Liberia, Marshall Islands and Panama) have ratified it. Despite the United States not being among the ratifying nations, all American parties involved in maritime commerce benefit from knowing the implications of the convention.

The private management company that participated in training has a fleet of over a hundred vessels, many flagged in nations that have ratified the MLC. Company representatives expressed concern over the impact MLC, 2006 will have on vessels sailing into pirate infested waters—specifically the effect the convention will have on seafarers’ rights to terminate contracts. However, because the MLC provisions on this point mirror the collective bargaining agreements in force on ships already, MLC, 2006 will not likely change their current experience.

We also addressed questions on shipowners’ progress in obtaining MLC, 2006 certification. Merchant ships registered in countries that have ratified the MLC, 2006 must be inspected and issued a Maritime Labour Certificate. This requires considerable preparation by both the flag state and the shipowner. Subject to the MLC, vessels must have the certification when the convention is ratified in mid-August.

During the workshop at Coast Guard Sector New York, we encountered different questions. Since the United States has not ratified the MLC, 2006, the Coast Guard does not have the authority to implement or enforce it. Nevertheless, the training was useful because many of the MLC, 2006 provisions parallel another ILO Convention (ILO-47) the United States has ratified. The training illustrated that by working together with the Center for Seafarers’ Rights and port chaplains the Coast Guard can use existing US legislation to enforce most of the standards contained in the MLC, 2006 and refer other Convention deficiencies to the vessel’s flag state.

The two workshops highlighted to me that protecting seafarers’ decent living and working conditions depends greatly on shipowners and port state control. SCI assists the maritime industry by providing MLC, 2006 training and by helping shipowners and ILO Member countries implement the Convention.