Regulatory protection for seafarers

Amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention strengthen support for ships’ crew

by Brandt Wagner

In May, the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006), adopted, by an overwhelming majority, eight amendments to the Code of the Convention. The amendments were transmitted to the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference, which approved them on June 6.

The amendments will be deemed to have been accepted unless more than 40% of the ratifying Members, which represent not less than 40% of the gross tonnage of the ships of the rati­ fying Members, indicate their formal disagreement before June 23, 2024. As this is highly unlikely, the amendments are expected to enter into force on December 23, 2024.

The amendments drew upon the lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative impact on all too many seafarers, with hundreds of thousands unable to leave their ships, an equal number stuck ashore and unable to replace them, experienc­ing excessive periods of service, facing challenges communicating with fami­lies, being denied urgent medical care ashore and being unable to disembark bodies of deceased shipmates.

The first amendment relates to Regu­lation 1.4 (Recruitment and Placement) and is intended to ensure that seafarers are informed of their rights in rela­tion to the obligation of recruitment and placement services to maintain a system of protection to compensate seafarers for monetary losses.

The second amendment relates to Regulation 2.5 (Repatriation) and is intended to further facilitate the prompt repatriation of seafarers, in­cluding when they are deemed aban­doned, and to safeguard seafarers who may be placed on ships where seafar­ers have recently been abandoned.

The third set of amendments relates to Regulation 3.1 (Accommodation and Recreational Facilities) and is intended to ensure that seafarers are provided with appropriate social con­nectivity by shipowners and that States provide internet access in their ports.

Convention support

The fourth set of amendments relates to Regulation 3.2 (Food and Catering) and provides that drinking water of suita­ble quality shall be made available for seafarers free of charge and highlights the importance of balanced meals on board.

The fifth set of amendments relates to Regulation 4.1 (Medical Care On Board Ship and Ashore) and provides that States shall ensure the prompt disembarkation of seafarers in need of immediate medical care from ships in its territory, and access to medical facil­ities ashore for the provision of appro­priate treatment. It is further intended to facilitate the repatriation of the body or ashes of a seafarer who has died on board.

The sixth amendment relates to Reg­ulation 4.3 (Health and Safety Protec­tion and Accident Prevention) and is intended to ensure that seafarers have appropriately-sized personal protective equipment.

The seventh set of amendments also relates to Regulation 4.3 (Health and Safety Protection and Accident Preven­tion) and provides that all deaths of seafarers shall be adequately investi­gated, recorded and reported annually to the ILO to be published in a global register.

The eighth set of amendments relates to Appendix A2-I (Evidence of financial security under Regulation 2.5, para­ graph 2) and Appendix A4-I (Evidence of financial security under Regulation 4.2). They intend to facilitate the functioning of the system of financial security by accepting a reference to the name of the registered owner of the ship when it is different from the shipowner.

The amendments demonstrate once again that the MLC, 2006 is a living instrument that can be adapted to meet the evolving needs of the shipping in­dustry and those who serve at sea.

Brandt Wagner is head of the Transport and Maritime Unit at the International Labour Office.