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EU Member States Urged To Implement Maritime Labour Convention

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

20 June 2006

The European Commission last week called on Member States and social partners to implement the International Labour Organisation Maritime Labour Convention.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted a Convention on labour standards for seafarers - an international legal instrument affecting the 1.2 million seafarers worldwide, as well as shipowners and maritime nations around the world - at the end of the tenth Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference on 23 February 2006.

The Commission has subsequently adopted a draft Council Decision proposing that the Member States ratify the Convention by December 2008. It also committed to consulting social partners regarding the possibility of integrating provisions of the Convention into European law.

“We needed a worldwide response to the challenges facing maritime transport, the first sector in which activity is globalised, and to define fair rules for all involved,” stated Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport.

He added:

“I hope that the Member States will start the procedure to ratify the Convention as soon as possible and that the social partners will take action to implement it at European level."

The consolidated Maritime Labour Convention brings together and updates more than 65 international labour standards adopted since the ILO was founded in 1919.

The range of subjects covered by the Convention, in truth an outline of the Maritime Labour Code, is vast, dealing with a large number of fields for which the Community is responsible, either exclusively or together with the Member States.

The Convention will apply to personnel working on ships of 500 gross tonnage or more which make international journeys or journeys between foreign ports, and covers essential matters such as the conditions of employment and working conditions of seafarers, including health, safety, minimum age, recruitment, working hours, accommodation on ships and social protection in order to guarantee decent working and living conditions on ships.

The Convention also lays down implementing rules detailing the responsibilities involved in applying the Convention for flag states, port states and states which supply labour.

The Maritime Labour Convention is also aimed at preventing unfair competition by means of a “no more favourable treatment” clause to ensure that the ships of states that have not ratified the Convention do not receive more favourable treatment than ships that fly the flag of a state that has ratified it.

The ships of countries which ratify the Convention and offer their seafarers decent working conditions will therefore be protected against unfair competition from substandard ships thanks to a certification system which will also reduce the risks of long delays due to inspections in foreign ports.

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