Why is MLC Called the Fourth Pillar in Maritime Law?

MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) was established in 2006 by the IMO and the ILO to protect the rights and needs of seafarers and ensure that they are free from exploitation. Though established in 2006, it didn’t come into effect till 2013. It now stands as the fourth pillar of international maritime law, as it builds on the previous three key IMO conventions.

4 Key IMO Conventions

  1. SOLAS – Safety of Life at Sea
  2. MARPOL – The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
  3. STCW – Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping
  4. MLC – Maritime Labour Convention

Together, these four conventions play an important role in ensuring safety and environmental protection.

The MLC 2006 sets out minimum working conditions, like working hours, hours of rest for seafarers, compensation, and training for those working on ships flying the flag of ratifying nations.

The law has two main purposes:

  • Establishing a consistent system of protection for seafarers in this highly globalized industry.
  • Ensuring fair terms for ship-owners and governments that want to provide decent work conditions to their seafarers.

It overlooks aspects like:

  • Eligibility to Work on a Ship
    • Age
    • Medical fitness
    • Training
    • Recruitment services
  • Employment Conditions
    • Contracts
    • Payment
    • Repatriation
    • Leave
    • Rest hours
  • Compliance and Enforcement
    • Labour agencies
    • Flag states
    • Port states
  • Accommodation, Food, Healthcare, Welfare, and Social Security
    • Medical care on ship and ashore
    • Shipowner’ liability
    • Social security
    • Accident prevention

As per MLC 2006, a record of work and rest hours needs to be maintained and the working environments on ships must be audited regularly to avoid accidents. Any accident or illness needs to be reported through a system. Failure to maintain records of work and rest hours as per MLC 2006 can lead to the withdrawal of a ship’s maritime labor certificate.

What are the Basic Aims of MLC 2006?

The MLC 2006 establishes the minimum standards of working and living conditions of seafarers on ships. As per MLC 2006, seafarers have to be provided stipulated hours of work and rest, proper food, training and other benefits. It is applicable to a wide range of ships in domestic and international voyages. The two basic aims of MLC 2006 are:

  1. To ensure the protection of seafarers’ rights globally. The law is also known as the Seafarers’ Bill of Rights.
  2. To protect shipping companies and countries from unfair competition, and guiding them to providing good living and working conditions to seafarers.

What are the Five Titles in MLC 2006?

In effect from August 20, 2013, the MLC 2006 set a regulatory framework for seafarers, governments and shipping companies worldwide, in regards to crew’s working conditions onboard and offshore. It is divided into 5 titles, which are:

  1. Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
  • Minimum age
  • Training and certifications
  • Medical fitness criteria
  • Recruitment and placement
  1. Employment conditions
  • Employment agreement of seafarers
  • Working hours and hours of rest
  • Compensation (also in case of ship’s losses and floundering)
  • Leave entitlement
  • Manning levels
  • Career development and skill development opportunities
  • Repatriation
  1. Accommodation, recreation and food
  • Proper food and housing
  • Recreation facilities onboard
  • Proper living conditions onboard
  1. Healthcare, welfare, and social security
  • Access to shore-based healthcare facilities
  • Proper medical care onboard
  • Health protection and accident prevention
  • Social security
  • Shipowners’ liability
  1. Compliance and enforcement
  • Compliance procedures onboard
  • Inspection of vessels and law enforcement
  • Marine casualties
  • Responsibilities of port states
  • Maritime labor certificates
  • Responsibilities of flag states
  • Labor supply
  • Authorization of recognized organizations

How Does a Ship Become Certified as MLC 2006 Compliant?

In effect from August 20, 2013, the MLC 2006 has laid down a set of regulations for seafarers’ rights. These are in place to protect their rights for decent living and working conditions onboard, employment, health, social security, proper rest hours and similar related issues.

Shipowners need to submit a DMLC (Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance) to their respective flag states or port states, which are a member to the convention. Following that, the flag states conduct surveys, inspections and paperwork to assure that ships are following the dictated guidelines. On satisfying all requirements, they issue the MLC certificate to the fleet flying their flag. This certificate needs to be placed at a clearly visible position onboard. The certificate has validity of 5 years with interim, initial and intermediate surveys.

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