In Aesop’s fable, the tortoise beat the hare in a race because the overconfident hare took a nap whilst his rival kept on going. Well, there are plenty of napping hares when it comes to seafarers’ rights. Only 12 countries thus far have ratified the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 – dubbed as the new ‘Bill of Rights’ for seafarers. Together they account for 48% of world tonnage, more than the 33% minimum required for the treaty to come into force. The other condition – at least 30 ratifying countries – is still far from being satisfied.

Like many others, the Philippines has yet to sign up. Most of the European Union was expected to come on board at end-2010, which would have made MLC 2006 a reality sooner than later. That didn’t happen. Of the 27 EU member states, only Spain has ratified the Convention to date. Does the EU care less about seafarers’ rights than Canada? In June of last year, the latter became the fourth country to sign the treaty. Interestingly, five of the 12 ratifying countries are flags of convenience. The Bahamas are top on the list – which should probably change the way FOC registers are regarded in the international shipping community.


Source: International Labour Organization

A new inspection regime will be in place when (not if) MLC 2006 comes into force. Port State Control officials will demand to see two documents, the Maritime Labour Certificate (MLC) and the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC). All ships above 500 tons engaged in the international trade will be subject to inspection in any country that has ratified MLC 2006. Those that do not meet the minimum standards could face detention.

Some folks in Manila may be thinking that the Philippines need not sweat it as many other countries haven’t signed up either. The procrastination is understandable as it is so Filipino. Still, for the world’s top crew supplier to dilly-dally on a convention aimed at advancing seafarers’ rights is not only disappointing. It’s a shame. ~Barista Uno

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