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International Labour Standards

Posted: July 6, 2015

 

In  August 2014, full Port State Control enforcement commenced for the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), following its entry into force a year earlier. The new regime of global employment standards for seafarers is thus being implemented and enforced worldwide, including those ships that might be registered with flags not amongst those 65 nations that have already ratified this important convention.

 

As with IMO Conventions, the ILO MLC is an organic document. Now that the MLC has entered into force it can be subject to further change. In April 2014, the first such amendments, concerning arrangements to ensure the payment in wages in situations such as a shipping company going bankrupt, were adopted by an ILO Special Tripartite Committee in Geneva at which ICS co-ordinated the Employers Group. These amendments are expected to be fully implemented by 2017. The Special Tripartite Committee is expected to meet again in Geneva, in early 2016, in order to review implementation of the MLC by governments, based on the reports which they are required to submit under the convention.

 

In October 2014, ICS also represented ship-owners at a meeting with unions and governments that adopted new ILO Guidelines on Seafarers’ Occupational Health & Safety, to help governments implements the relevant provisions of the MLC.

ICS was one of the ILO Social Partners that helped to negotiate the text of the MLC with governments and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). ICS is therefore committed to helping to ensure that the MLC is properly implemented, in order to deliver the ‘level playing field’ of decent working conditions that ship owners need to compete fairly.

 

Most of the standards in the MLC are already contained in various other ILO maritime regulations and recommendations which the MLC replaces, and are therefore presenting few major challenges for most responsible shipping companies. However, the issuance of flag state certification is new, as in the involvement of classification societies in the inspection of labour standards, with any flag states choosing to delegate their new responsibilities to Recognised Organisations.
Also new are many of the documentary procedures that shipping companies are now required to follow in order to demonstrate on-going compliance. In particular, ships must now prepare and maintain a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) that is attached to the Maritime Labour Certificate.

 

ICS efforts continue to be focused on explaining the obligations of shipping companies, primarily through the ISF Guidelines on the Application of the MLC, which have sold around 15,000 copies. Whilst there are similarities with the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code, there are also important differences.

 

Particularly important is the advice that ICS has developed concerning the preparation of the DMLC Part II. An important function of the Declaration is to set out where evidence of continuous compliance with the MLC can be found on board the ship. This includes records of measures that have been taken, and the procedures to be followed in the event that potential non-compliance has been identified, for example an individual seafarer being found to have had insufficient rest. ICS is therefore advocating a model that is intended to be concise but comprehensive. Given that declaration will be subject to careful scrutiny by MLC inspectors acting on behalf of governments, it is important for companies and ships’ officers to invest time and effort in its preparation and maintenance.

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