Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Seamen’s Church Institute

The Rev. David M. RiderThe Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 reached an important milestone last August when the 30th nation necessary for its coming into force ratified it. The MLC, 2006, the single most significant accomplishment in thousands of years of seafarers’ rights law, will enter into force next August. It provides a comprehensive statement of seafarers’ rights and working conditions that have withstood the test of time and reflect modern shipping realities.

The convention was adopted in 2006 after five years of intensive deliberations at the International Labor Organization by governments, trade unions, shipowners, and nongovernmental organizations. It establishes minimum requirements for almost all aspects of seafarers’ working conditions, including conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare, and social security protection. Importantly, the convention includes strong enforcement mechanisms for ratifying nations to ensure compliance on ships flying their flag and on foreign ships calling their ports.

The U.S. this year should join the 32 other countries that have ratified the convention. The U.S. already has some of the highest safety and labor conditions in the world, so complying with MLC, 2006 standards would be an easy proposition for U.S.-flag merchant vessels.

Until the U.S. ratifies the convention, however, U.S.-flag merchant ships will be subject to lengthy inspections and delays in countries that have ratified the pact. Port states ensure MLC, 2006 compliance by examining documents issued by flag states that have ratified the convention. Other countries’ ships will be subject to a full inspection to ensure MLC, 2006 compliance.

Ratifying the convention also would enhance maritime safety and security in U.S. ports by raising the standards of foreign ships entering U.S. ports. American shipowners and maritime labor unions strongly support the convention. It’s high time the U.S. joins the 32 other maritime nations in ratifying the MLC, 2006.

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