The coming into force of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) in August 2013 might serve to generate such a discussion amongst BC Shipping New readers and those involved in marine transportation. Therefore, this article by Darryl Anderson in BC Shipping News will serve as an introduction to the convention and provide a summary of some of the policy implications for shipowners, seafarers and port State control officials.Depending on the state of international trade, an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million seafarers daily serve on a worldwide fleet of over 100,000 ships that transport over 90 per cent of world trade – manufactured goods, fuel, foodstuffs and commodities. Decent work for seafarers and fair competition for shipowners are not topics that are frequently mentioned when Canadians discuss our international trade interests; nor do they arise when the subject of the effectiveness of marine environmental protection measures are being considered.The International Labour Organization intends to use the performance indicators of deficiencies, detentions and seafarers’ complaints as measures for gauging the effectiveness and success of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. While this will be a good start, industry analysts have suggested that it will take two to three years to see how this “Seafarers’ Bill of Rights” is unfolding. Nevertheless, Dr. Progoulaki, Maritime HR Consultant, University of Aegean indicated that “since higher standards of both working and living conditions are now set by the MLC, it is believed that the MLC will not only represent but will actually be the 4th pillar of Quality Shipping”.

The Structure of the Maritime Labour Convention

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 is very broad in content and complex to implement onboard ships. Thus, it is not possible in this brief summary to fully illustrate the scope of the issues – rather, the structure of the convention will be outlined to illustrate some of the salient features of the convention for both ship owners and seafarers.Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 is divided into three parts: Articles, Regulations and Code, the first two establish core rights, principles, and obligations. The Code itself provides the details for implementation of the regulations. The Regulations and the Code are organized under five titles:• Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship;

• Title 2: Conditions of employment;

• Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food, and catering;

• Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection; and

• Title 5: Compliance and enforcement.

Each of the titles consists of regulations, framed with a stated purpose (which forms an introduction to each regulation), standards and guidelines. The standards all have mandatory force while the guidelines do not. For example, Title 1, which sets out the minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, has four regulations: minimum age of people permitted to work aboard ship; provision of medical certificates; seafarers’ training and qualifications; and recruitment and placement.

Title 5 on compliance and enforcement, for example, addresses the following Flag Sate responsibilities:

• To define the national Flag State requirements;

• To inspect and certify vessels against the new Convention and national requirements;

• To authorize recognized organizations; and

• To have procedures for handling seafarers’ complaints.