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August 20, 2013

The countdown to  implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006  (MLC2006) is drawing to a close.  The implementation date is August 20th, 2013.

Douglas B. Stevenson, Chairman if ICMA and Director of the New York based Center for Seafarers Rights of ICMA member the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, addressed the ICMA Regional Conference in Odessa on the imminent implementation of  MLC2006.   “The MLC2006 is in the best interest of both seafarers and owners,” he said.

Maritime Law predates Christianity.  Laws were made that awarded remarkably favourable rights to seafarers.  At the time, seafaring in the Mediterranean was both an adventurous and risky enterprise, much like present day space explorers. At the time it was in the interest of owners to get the best people.  To do so competitively, they needed to take exceptional care of their crews.  Recruitment and retention was as important then as it is now.  MLC2006 is still in the best interest of owners, as much as it to the benefit of seafarers themselves.

The MLC is an agreement by consensus between ship owners, unions and 85 nations, to work together for the benefit of all in the industry.

MLC will come into affect only for the countries that have ratified it.  It will apply only to those countries that have ratified the Convention, and on their flagged ships.  Port states that have ratified MLC will commence inspections in terms of MLC2006 on ships entering their ports from August 20th.

Stevenson went on to explain to chaplains the structure and finer details of the Convention, leading to a lively discussion.  He urged countries, especially labour supplying countries like the Ukraine, to ratify the Convention.  Ratification will help their citizens to find seafaring employment. Countries represented at the Conference that have ratified the MLC include Morocco, Spain and France.

The MLC2006 strongly encouraged Port Welfare Committees.  But port states were not obliged to pay for shore-based welfare facilities.

It is a requirement of the Convention that an onboard complaints procedure be put in place. If seafarers file a complaint they have the right to be supported.  It may happen that seafarers ask chaplains to accompany them on such occasions.

Stevenson offered ICMA’s personnel the services of the Center for Seafarers’ Rights for advice on implementation and compliance and assistance in resolving problems in collaboration with flag states, if required.  He referred to “the miracle of ICMA” as a network of organisations that have no obligation to cooperate, yet they do: every port chaplain has, through the ICMA online directory,  access to a worldwide network of professional support to refer to for follow up.  Chaplains should make every effort to work with port state inspections.  In addition, IMO’s website has a directory of officials responsible for flag state compliance

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