ILM’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) to enter into force in August

The International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) was approved on 23 February 2006 at the 94th International Labour Conference, with 314 votes in favour and none against, with four abstentions. Spain has now ratified the MLC and it will enter into force on 20 August.

In order for the MLC 2006 to enter into force a double requirement had to be satisfied: the Convention had to be ratified by at least 30 member States of the ILO, which taken together hold, as a minimum, 33% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant ships. It should be noted that, as of now, 35 States have ratified the Convention, covering a total of 68.8% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant ships.

With its entrance into force this coming August, the new standard will become the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for shipping, given that it completes the International Maritime Organization conventions which regulate Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), as well as the training and watchkeeping of mariners (STCW).

It is, without doubt, a milestone in the regulation of the working conditions of seafarers, given that it provides them with greater protection of their rights in areas such as labour contracts, responsibility of recruiting agencies, working hours and rest periods, social security and occupational health and safety. Particular care is taken in the definitions, setting out the concept of “seafarers” as well as the concept of ships to which the MLC 2006 will apply.

In the opinion of San Simón & Duch the MLC 2006 represents “enormous progress in the systematisation and organisation of what have been, up to now, copious ILO regulations and, without doubt, an advance in the regulation of the rights and obligations of seafarers”. The firm also notes that the new regulations “demand that various different agencies within the Spanish Public Administration co-ordinate and work together on an on-going basis”.

Given the short timeframe before the convention enters into force, there are only a few months left for States to finish inspecting those ships that fly under their flag and expedite the required Maritime Labour Certificate and Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance, Part I, as per Convention obligations.

In Spain the competent authority for issuing the Maritime Labour Certificate and the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance, Part I, is the Dirección General de la Marina Mercante (General Directorate of  Merchant Shipping) subsequent to the issuance of a binding report from the Dirección General de la Inspección de Trabajo y Seguridad Social (General Directorate of the Inspectorate of Work and Social Security) and the Instituto Social de la Marina (Social Marine Institute) relating to those areas over which they have jurisdiction. The General Directorate of Merchant Shipping is thus formally recognised as the Competent Authority for the purposes of MLC 2006.

The Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance Part II shall be drawn up by the Shipowner and shall identify the measures that will be adopted to ensure ongoing compliance with the regulations included in Part I, as well as the measures that will ensure that there is continuous improvement.

Failure to comply with the requirements set out in MLC 2006 will give rise to penalties that could include the detention of the ship. This would be the case, for example, where salaries were unpaid, or employment registers were not updated.

In Spain’s case, although the existing labour laws contain a large part of what is required by the Convention, some action is required, both by the Public Administration (Ministerio de Fomento andMinisterio de Empleo y Seguridad Social / Ministry for Development and Ministry of Employment and Social Security) as well as by shipping companies and recruitment agencies, mainly with regard to documentation.

On 4 May the first inspection of a Spanish merchant ship took place under MLC 2006 requirements: the tanker Algeciras Spirit, while it unloaded at the single-buoy mooring at Cepsa’s refinery in Algeciras Bay. The ship passed the inspection.