The MLC 2006, complementing other major international conventions, reflects international agreement on the minimum requirements for working and living conditions for seafarers. Only 51 members of the ILO States have already ratified the Convention, less than the one third of the total number of the ILO member states, meaning that still there is a lot of work to be done. It is worth to notice that important countries for shipping such as India, Italy, China and United States have not ratified the MLC Convention yet. This may cause problems as there can be a different interpretation of the MLC, leading to deficiencies and ship detentions. Ship owners don't want their ship to be detained unnecessarily, as they will be incurring unduly losses.

MLC has come into force this August, so we are all waiting to see how the requirements of the Convention will be implemented in practice. Cleopatra Doumbia- Henry, director of the ILO department was sympathetic to the shipowners' concerns and said this was why all major shipping nations needed to ratify the MLC and governments to move forward and adopt the necessary regulatory framework. Until that is in place, shipowners don't know what they have got to do. The biggest challenge is to get countries to ratify the convention very quickly and as rapidly as possible ensuring they have the regulatory framework so shipowners know what they have to do. ''That is where I would say the industry has been ahead of many governments. In the meantime it is a challenge for shipowners'' she has added.

During the first month of the MLC Convention's implementation, there was the first ship detention in Denmark. The Liberia flagged offshore supply vessel Atlantic Carrier was detained in Esbjerg for 24 hours. The Danish Maritime Autohrity found during inspection on September 3rd that the crew hadn't contracts. This was the first detention as a result of breach of MLC requirements. According to MLC Convention, Regulation 2.1, paragraph 1, there are examples of circumstances that a ship may be detained in case seafarers are repeatedly not in the possession of valid seafarers' employment agreements (SEAs) onboard the same ship or seafarers with SEAs containing clauses constituting a denial of seafarers' rights.

Canada is the second country to detain a vessel under the MLC Convention for lack of employment contracts. According to the ITF, the ship was detained by the Canadian authorities following complaints regarding unpaid wages and blank contracts among others.

When implementing their responsibilities, each Member shall make all possible efforts to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed. If a ship is found to be unduly detained or delayed, compensation shall be paid for any loss or damage suffered. The burden of proof in each case shall be on the complainant. At all stages of the inspection, PSCOs should bear in mind the obligation to make all possible efforts to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed. (Standard A5.2.1, paragraph 8). Only members of the Paris MoU who have ratified the MLC on or before 20 August 2012 are entitled to conduct PSC inspections from 20 August 2013. Consequently the following twelve member states are entitled to enforce the MLC: Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Spain and Sweden. Members of the Paris MoU who have ratified the MLC, 2006 after 20 August will first be entitled to conduct PSC inspections 12 months after the date of this Members ratification, including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta and United Kingdom.

Regarding the conflict on rest hours, we should make three questions: if we apply minimum rest hours as prescribed in the STCW Manila amendments, are we also in compliance with MLC 2006 requirements? What can be accepted? Can the term ''substantially equivalent'' be used? A member which is not in a position to implement the rights and principles in the manner set out in Part A of the Code may, unless expressly provided otherwise in this Convention, implement Part A through provisions in its laws and regulations or other measures which are substantially equivalent to the provisions of Part A. Nothing in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Standard A2.3 shall prevent a Member from having national laws or regulations or a procedure for the competent authority to authorize or register collective agreements permitting exceptions to the limits set out. Such exceptions shall, as far as possible, follow the provision of this Standard (A2.3) but may take into account of more frequent or leave periods or the granting of compensatory leave for watchkeeping seafarers or seafarers working onboard ships on short voyages.

 

Above article is an edited version of Apostolos Venizelos's presentation during 2013 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum

You may view relevant video by clicking here