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Human Element, ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, Seafarers’ Working and Living Conditions, Ship Inspection and Certification


This paper begins by providing a brief overview of the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), noting that this Convention, often called the “Seafarers’ bill of rights”, seeks to achieve both social and labour rights (“decent work”) for seafarers and fair competition (achieving a level-playing field) for shipowners. It has been described as the “fourth pillar” of the international maritime regulatory regime complementing the major International Maritime Organization conventions. The paper provides a brief update on international efforts to achieve the 30/33 formula needed to bring the Convention into force [at present, the tonnage element, 33% has been achieved already with coverage now at 54% of the world fleet (by gross tonnage), with 18 ratifications]. It then explores challenges faced by flag States in connection with capacity to implement the ship inspection and certification system under the MLC, 2006 and other difficulties with respect to legal implementation by the flag States. The paper also comments on some challenges in connection with port State, coastal State and labour-supplying State responsibilities. The paper points out that the MLC, 2006 is a comprehensive code that covers diverse issues and a wider range of both ships and seafarers than previous conventions. It often requires interdepartmental cooperation to implement its requirements at the national level. The paper concludes that, despite the slower pace of ratification in some regions, largely because of the recent economic and other crises, it appears that many actors in the maritime sector are already actively engaged in MLC, 2006 implementation, often ahead of governments. The question is not “if” but “when” the formula will be achieved to allow the MLC, 2006 to enter into force.


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