Three radical ways to toughen MLC 2006

The shipping industry speaks of ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as though the treaty were a turning point in the history of seafarers’ rights, the harbinger of a new age. Maybe it is. Even the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) seems pleased with how MLC 2006 is being implemented. But we still have our doubts.

Two years after it went into full effect, MLC 2006 still lacks vigour. It is like decaffeinated coffee — not strong enough to wake up those who take seafarers’ rights for granted or who think violating these rights is fine as long as you are not caught. This could be remedied in three ways:

Completely do away with the Maritime Labour Certificate (MLC) – The certificate is supposed to be prima facie evidence that a ship has complied with the MLC 2006 provisions. This is really a waiver system that immunises vessels from Port State Control inspection unless PSC officials have reason to believe that violations are taking place. Ships should be inspected at random. Compliance certificates are a dime a dozen, and compliance on paper does not necessarily mean actual compliance.

Impose fines on erring shipowners – We first made the proposal in our blog post of 4th February 2015 (Seafarers’ rights: penalising the violators). We wrote then that trampling on seafarers’ rights should be seen as “an assault on the human spirit” – not any less serious than polluting the oceans, which is an assault on Mother Nature.

Introduce cash rewards for seafarers who report serious violations of MLC 2006 – The reality is that many seafarers still hesitate to report breaches of the Convention for fear of reprisal. Cash rewards should encourage more of them to squeal on the violators. Not all Flag States or Port States may be willing to spend to advance seafarers’ rights, but the more enlightened amongst them could show the way.

In the final analysis, the protection of seafarers’ rights is not just a legal but a social and moral issue. It will require a reformation of shipping, a sea-change in values and attitudes. ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, could be a platform for such change — so long as it is given enough teeth. ~Barista Uno

 

8 Replies to “Three radical ways to toughen MLC 2006”

  1. Manu

    All three excellent ideas, none of which will unfortunately happen, because most of shipping – especially where it employs Asian seamen – is regressive. It wants the MLC certificate; it does not want to do what is right for seamen. And it has the influence to ensure no authority gets carried away with the notion that the MLC is supposed to solve the issues that it pretends to address.

    • Barista Uno

      Thanks very much for your hard-boiled comment, Manu. I’m afraid you are right. How can progressive ideas to promote seafarers’ rights get a boost from an industry that is regressive?

  2. Reid Sprague

    You are powerfully economical, BU! That is one of the shortest, and most meaningful, commentaries on MLC2006 I’ve seen. Excellent suggestions.

    I hope the industry’s complacent acceptance of the current MLC implementation doesn’t rule out more energetic measures – but I’m afraid it might. It’s much easier for a company to address this, or any other certification requirement, as a cost of doing business – and get it out of the way as quickly and cheaply as possible – than it is to confront the problem the certification regime is meant to address. Certification becomes an end in itself.

    Thanks for your penetrating, unvarnished observations, BU! You’re a unique voice in the maritime realm.

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  4. Neill Conroy MNI

    As usual, Barista, you are pointing out the large warts on the surface of our industry, in this case on MLC 2006. The Convention has the potential to improve our industry and save lives, as long as we remember that the potential can only be achieved by continuous improvement of the regime. Like SOLAS, the original words provided something to be amended; we now have a regime – it is now time to get busy making it a practical tool for BOTH employers and employees, the very people that make our industry as economically important, and as cheap, as it is.

  5. virginia a.arao

    Barista , your suggestion is very relevant and practical. I wonder who will have it implemented. I hope it will be done. To further add to your suggestion, here is my own suggestion :

    “Require all seafarers during inspection , except the Captain ( as the Captain will save his ass), to fill up a form on ” Situational Analysis and Observation of My Present Vessel” on the following areas:

    1. Management Style
    2. Types of Leadership
    3. Food and Accommodation
    4. Teamwork and working environment
    5. Salary and other benefits
    6. Other matters

    This form should be compulsory to be filled up and should not be signed by the seafarer. This will allow openness on the part of the seafarers to report the wrongdoings happening onboard , in their respective agencies and among other officers without them worrying that they or their employment will be jeopardized . It is true that the reason why few reports are submitted regarding violations of the MLC is that few seafarers cooperate mostly for fear. Majority of seafarers adopt the mentality of “just do your work, close your eyes, as long as I receive my salary, then I go home after my contract and forget everything happening in this vessel”. That keeps the perpetrators continue misdeeds.

  6. pilotcabin

    How about investigating whether the entries in the bridge bell (movement) book and the ISF Rest hours are consistent with each other. Most, if not all, of the time, Rest hours entries are falsified to avoid red marks.

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