After 12 years of development and 6-1/2 years since being adopted, the International Labour Organization (ILO) received its 30th ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). This historic action by the Republic of the Philippines fulfilled the last condition for the first global labour standard that spans continents and oceans. It will go into effect in a year’s time on August 20, 2013.
“This is great news for the world’s more than 1.2 million seafarers,” ILO Director General Juan Somavia said. “It was a dream of the ILO as early as 1920, and I pay tribute to the international maritime community for having made it a reality.”
The MLC, 2006 was adopted unanimously in 2006 but there were two requirements still to be met before it could come into force. The 29th and 30th ratifications by Russia and the Philippines fulfilled the requirement that at least 30 ILO member countries ratify the convention. The other requirement – that ratifying countries represent 33 percent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage – was met in 2009.
The 30 countries represent nearly 60 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage. This means that seafarers working on more than 50 percent of the world’s international shipping will be covered by the new convention.
“This is a remarkable achievement,” Somavia said. “Not only are these first 30 ratifications drawn from almost every region of the world, but the tonnage level is nearly double the required amount.”
The countries that have ratified the convention are:
Liberia, Marshall Islands, Bahamas, Panama, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria, Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Benin, Singapore, Denmark, Antigua and Barbuda, Latvia, Luxembourg, Kiribati, Australia, Netherlands, Tuvalu, St Kitts & Nevis, Togo, Poland, Palau, Sweden, Cyprus, Russian Federation and the Philippines.
Two countries that have played a significant role in developing the MLC, and both having a sizeable registry of yachts, but are missing from the list of signatory countries, are the United Kingdom and the United States. In its context, the United Kingdom also includes its overseas territories (Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, etc.) Where do they stand on ratification of the convention?
Through information released by the ILO, the United States convened a meeting on international legislation to consider a number of conventions. The U.S. representative to the ILO stated that it was necessary to find ways to resolve concerns of national compliance, and that the process mandated an examination of national laws, regulations and practice with a view to considering ratification or other appropriate action. The United States could not ratify without having in place the necessary regulations. The U.S. Coast Guard has undertaken a comparative analysis of the national legislation. There is no indication of if or when the convention will be ratified by the United States. This is especially true considering the upcoming presidential election and intended austerity measures.
In similar circumstances, the United Kingdom stated that the MLC could not be ratified until all national legislation was in place. Tripartite meetings (flag, industry, labour) had been held regularly since 2007 to advise the government, particularly regarding issues such as large yachts and the application of the crew accommodation requirements, as well as on the use of substantial equivalence. National legislation already covered many of the provisions of the convention, but changes would be needed, in some cases following determination by other government agencies. Many of the overseas territories have posted online circulars and newsletters on how they will implement MLC compliance until such time that the convention is ratified by the United Kingdom. It involves an inspection scheme that should be as close to their final rules as possible. However, secondary visits may become necessary once the convention is signed into law.
So now that the clock is ticking, what does a yacht do to ensure compliance by the August 2013 deadline?
1. Contact your flag-state and/or classification society. Most flag-states have delegated the MLC inspection process to the classification societies and they have guidelines to help a yacht prepare.
2. Conduct a gap analysis of your existing policies and procedures. These will be part of the safety management system.
3. Any areas of concern identified in the gap analysis should be discussed with your inspection agency (flag or class).
4. Submit a formal request for issuance of the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) part I. This document is issued by your flag-state and will outline the areas applicable to the yacht that must be inspected.
5. Upon issuance of the DMLC Part I, the yacht then prepares DMLC part II. This will answer to the flag how the yacht will comply with the areas identified in the part I document.
6. Upon completion of the DMLC Part II, the inspection process for issuance of the Maritime Labour Convention certificate is arranged. This may include preparatory review of documentation in the office before the onboard inspection.
Noting the complexity of the process and subject areas that may be new to most in the industry, it cannot be stressed enough that action is required sooner than later. Let’s put this in realistic terms. It is now October 2012. The boat show season is in full swing. That will be followed by the run-up to Christmas. January, February, and March are usually a combination of charters, owner’s use, and maintenance work. April hits us before we know it and the summer plans begin to take shape. Boats heading to the Mediterranean begin their movements. Yachts already in the Med start to awaken from their winter naps. June sees us positioning for the summer season and by July, things are full speed ahead. Illustrating the above typical schedule, one can see that there is very little time to prepare, let alone become certified.
In addition, another extremely important aspect to remember is the availability (or lack) of inspectors. The ILO has dictated that passenger ships and bulk carriers take priority when scheduling the onboard inspections. This may leave many yachts uncertified by the August 2013 deadline. There are a finite number of approved inspectors. There is an understanding that port state control will recognize this shortage, but there is no guarantee that they will accept it.
Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (IYB), an organization that provides flag-state inspection services to yachts on behalf of several administrations. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as master on merchant ships, acted as designated person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at +1 954-596-2728 or www.yachtbureau.org. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.