Marine Log

February 25, 2006

Shipowners, unions hail new "super convention"

As expected, an ILO (International Labor Organization) conference in Geneva on Thursday adopted a wide ranging "super convention," that has been hailed as a "seafarers' bill of rights."

Government, shipowner and seafarer representatives from more than 100 countries, voted by 314 in favor of the Consolidated Maritime Convention (Conmarcon) with just four abstentions.

Conmarcon is the product of five years’ work to produce a single instrument that will be accepted as the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory system for the global maritime industry, along with the IMO’s safety, training and pollution conventions.

International Transport Federation General Secretary David Cockroft described its adoption as “a historic result for the ILO showing that what has long been a global industry needs global regulation, which will be enforced in practice at sea and in the world’s ports.”

Chris Horrocks, Secretary General of the International Shipping Federation, the international employers’ organization for ship operators, added: “This landmark decision is just the beginning. Now we have to ensure that every government ratifies this convention as soon as possible and applies it in full.”

The convention sets minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship and contains provisions on conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection.

Among the novel features of the convention, according to the ILO, are its form and structure with legally binding standards accompanied by directions given by guidelines. Its amendment procedures are rapid and, most importantly, it sets out a system for the certification of seafarers' labor conditions.

Under the new convention, ships that are larger than 500 GT and engaged in international voyages or voyages between foreign ports will be required to carry a "Maritime Labor Certificate" and a "Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance". The declaration sets out shipowners' plans for ensuring that applicable national laws, regulations or other measures required to implement the convention are complied with on an ongoing basis. Shipmasters will then be responsible for carrying out the ship-owners' stated plans and keeping proper records to provide evidence of compliance with the convention. The flag State will review the shipowners' plans and verify and certify that they are in place and being implemented. This, says the ILO, will put pressure on shipowners that disregard the law, but will remove pressure from those that comply.

Other convention elements include: accelerated amendment procedures to update its technical provisions to address changes in the sector; onboard and onshore complaint procedures to encourage rapid resolution of problems, if possible; a complaint and inspection system linked with the well-established ILO supervisory system; provisions ensuring that, should a flag State delegate certain inspection and enforcement functions to a recognized organization, such as a classification society, the organization will have to meet specific criteria for independence and expertise; and, a modernized management based approach to occupational safety and health.

The convention consolidates and updates 68 existing ILO maritime conventions and recommendations adopted since 1920. Countries that do not ratify the new convention will remain bound by the previous conventions that they have ratified, although those instruments will be closed to further ratification.