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There was perhaps a collective sigh of relief when the Maritime Labour Convention recently got the final ratification necessary to bring it into force in 12 months’ time, with all that that entails in terms of setting out minimum requirements for almost all aspects of working conditions for the world’s seafarers.

The MLC Convention covers conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection. Parties to the treaty must ensure that ships flying their flag meet the ‘decent work’ requirements set out in the MLC and certify that those ships comply with the requirements relating to labour conditions.

With the MLC set to come into effect in August 2013, it is now essential that the necessary good quality training is in place to ensure compliance. The MLC may have been many years in the planning stage, but the shipping industry is not necessarily quick to respond to change and this has to happen swiftly.

Videotel is deploying David Dearsley, former secretary general at IMEC, the International Maritime Employers Committee, as its ‘tutor’ helping companies get to grips with MLC requirements.

Ship management association InterManager says it expects the MLC will encourage recruitment into the maritime industry and one has to hope that better working conditions will offset the fear that criminalisation of seafarers would drive people out of the business. “Establishing minimum standards for the working conditions of the world’s seafarers is essential in ensuring best practice across our industry, especially at a time when recruitment is at a low level and the industry is struggling to attract young people,” says Alastair Evitt, President of InterManager.

The bottom line is that the industry needs to be prepared for the changes – a point that has been stressed by unions and owners’ organisations alike. They point out that compliance will be a port state control issue with all that that implies in terms of more detailed inspections and dire consequences – including detention – for infringements.

As ever, it is not signing up to a convention that counts but whether a flag state implements its provisions. We understand pressure is being brought to bear, for example, on the UK who has yet to sign up apparently due to concerns over increasing red tape. Where have we heard that before?

If you work for a shipowner or shipmanager and don’t know about the MLC, well …you should!

Start here for a bit of light reading:


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