ILO's Maritime Labour Convention – equivalent impact to SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW?

A recent evening seminar organised by lawyers Ince and Co., with Clive Harrison of Döhle (Isle of Man) and Albert Levy of Ince and Co. as keynote speakers, alerted owners to the likely consequences of the soon-to-be introduced International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention.


Main consequences - detention

In summary, the Convention consolidates existing internationally agreed seafarers' employment and social legislation – some of which has been in existence for 80+ years - into a consolidated document of core rights and principles containing both mandatory standards and non-mandatory guidelines. The Maritime Labour Convention is comparable with other well-known IMO Conventions in that there will be a certification process for the owner (who is defined as "the owner or the other organisation who has assumed responsibility for the duties and responsibilities imposed by this Convention") as per flag state requirements, with responsibility for checking that the owner/vessel meets the Convention standards resting with port state authorities. Ships which do not meet the convention standards will face the usual penalties, up to and including vessel detention.



To give owners and labour supply organisations time to plan, it should be pointed out that, although the Convention has been adopted, it needs to be ratified by at least 30 countries representing at least 33% of the world's gross tonnage. However, this may not turn out to be a lengthy process given that the European Union representing 25 countries and nearly 27% of gt together with other high-gt Open Registers are publicly supportive of the Convention, although in many cases significant changes will need to be made to National Laws. The Convention will then enter into force for all ILO Members, 12 months after ratification.


What's in the Convention?

Negotiations which were undertaken by the International Shipping Federation on behalf of the industry, the International Transport Workers' Federation and Governments representing the ILO Members, resulted in a consolidation of existing legislation into five main subject headings:


·         Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship

·         Conditions of employment

·         Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering

·         Health protection, medical care, welfare and social protection

·         Compliance and enforcement


Possible consequences

Given the pace of the Convention's march towards entry into force, few, if any, flag states have yet to provide much in the way of concrete guidance. Consequently, it is somewhat premature to suggest areas of interest to owners except by noting some of the questions raised by parties attending this presentation.


·          Will repatriation issues be covered at an appropriately high standard?

·         Will the defined accommodation standards for newbuildings 10,000 + dwt vessels lead to pressure on shipyards to deliver vessels before the introduction of the Convention standards takes effect?

·         To what level will flag states insist on access to shore-based welfare facilities and social security arrangements and what effect will this have on labour costs?

·         Will "whistleblowing" increase and what remedy will owners have for inappropriate detentions?

·         As flag states will be required to submit quarterly assessment reports to the ILO, will this act as a disincentive for the continuation of new and smaller flags?

·         Will the legal jurisdiction be selected on the basis of flag state, the seafarer's country of residence or some other basis?


Contact: Rob Lomas