Russia, Philippines ratify UN treaty guaranteeing maritime labour rights

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. UN Photo/Rossana Fraga

21 August 2012 – A comprehensive range of labour standards for the world's 1.2 million merchant sailors, covering decent working conditions and health and safety issues, is now set to go into effect following its final two required ratifications, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) announced today.

The ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) by Russia and the Philippines fulfils the minimum requirement that 30 ILO Member States – representing nearly 60 percent of global shipping tonnage – ratify the Convention. This means that in a year’s time, seafarers working on the majority of the world’s shipping will have their rights ensured by the new Convention.

“This is great news for the world’s more than 1.2 million seafarers,” ILO Director General Juan Somavia said. “It was a dream of the ILO as early as 1920, and I pay tribute to the international maritime community for having made it reality,” he added, noting that the ratification was “a remarkable achievement.”

The Convention delineates a seafarers' ‘bill of rights’ while allowing a sufficient degree of national discretion to deliver those rights with transparency and accountability. The Convention also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry, and help secure universal application and enforcement.

Its provisions will help to meet the demand for quality shipping, crucial to the global economy. It will apply to all ships engaged in commercial activities with the exception of fishing vessels and traditional ships (such as dhows and junks). The Convention sets minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship and contains provisions on conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health and medical care and welfare and social security protection.

Along with protecting the rights of seafaring labourers and mariners, the Convention will also facilitate the inspection of ships through what is known as “port State control” which allows port countries to inspect ships flying under different national flags.

“The maritime labour inspection and certification system is a big step forward by the ILO in taking concrete and specific action to address the very serious problems that arise because of international ownership of ships and the inability of some countries to ensure that their ships meet international standards for quality shipping,” noted Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department.

When it comes into effect, the MLC, 2006 will replace 37 existing ILO maritime conventions adopted since 1920.


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