Posted on | August 28, 2012 | 2 Comments
Attention will now be focussed afresh on the Maritime Labour Convention now it has completed its ratification process, with Russia and the Philippines bringing the total up to the 30 member states required to begin the “entry into force” process. With more than 60% of gross tonnage operated by the states which have ratified, MLC 2006 will now come into force in 12 months time, in August 2013. Not before time.
Described as the “fourth pillar” of maritime regulation, the wide ranging convention, which consolidated and modernised an extensive suite of old and often redundant employment legislation, has been welcomed throughout the shipping industry. It is expected to provide a uniform system of employment standards and good practice that is recognised globally – the “level playing field” which good operators have demanded for many years. As with all such regulatory advances, the good guys will do everything necessary, the reluctant “lump” will be dragged along, kicking and screaming.
There can be no doubt that this represents a regulatory milestone, with its twelve month “count down” to the MLC 2006 coming into force. Hopefully, the majority of well-organised companies will have their plans in place, although there has been some “foot-dragging” by some flag states that have inflicted a degree of uncertainty upon ships flying their flags. Many owners will have co-operated with those who will issue their certificates and engaged in “dummy runs”, with inspections showing which areas require to be altered or improved to ensure compliance when the convention goes live. There is, it has been suggested, no shortage of training and advice available, both for ship operators and those who will be doing the inspections and indeed for employees. The waiting time is over and urgent action is required to ensure all have their systems ready for August next year.
As with all such universal regulation, it is crucial to the globally trading shipping industry that there is a degree of universality in the treatment of ships being inspected, this being backed up by the “no favourable treatment” criterion which forms an important element.
Residual concerns have revolved around areas such as the definition of what constitutes a seafarer, with various contract staff found afloat in cruise ships and the offshore sector, and perceived difficulties in the application of certain parts of the convention to yachts and various other smaller craft. But it is anticipated that with goodwill, such problems will be ironed out. It is also thought to be encouraging that the International Labour Organisation, custodian of the convention is remaining closely engaged with the implementation process and will require regular reports from contracting parties to view progress and monitor the constant improvement that is required.
Will there be problems once the MLC inspectors start to board ships around the world, subjecting entirely new areas to their scrutiny? It would be unrealistic to anticipate perfection, and teething troubles might be expected in the implementation of such very different fields to those which people are accustomed. After all, it is recognised that port state control does vary in its efficiency around the world. But it is hoped that goodwill and best practice will prevail, and permeate across the industry. Considering the global importance and the economic value of the shipping industry, MLC 2006 promises improved efficiency, better morale, and hopefully a better image for the industry as a whole. There is something in it for everyone!