History of Seafarer Rights & Why Should We Celebrate Labour Day for Seafarers?

30 Apr

History of Seafarer Rights & Why Should We Celebrate Labour Day for Seafarers?

History of the International Labour Organization for the Shipping Industry

Shipping has a long history of multinational crewing. One hundred years ago, maritime unions, shipowners, and government representatives sat down to discuss the first moves to regulate this globalized workforce.  They recognize that seafarers would be most effectively protected by a uniform law.

After the first World War, there was a strong desire to build a better world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) was formed as part of the Versailles peace treaty. The ILO sought to set global standards for working conditions.

However, there was a recognition that the shipping industry was a special case deserving of special treatment. The ILO decided to devote the whole of its second conference in the following year to maritime matters. The most notable questions about the implementation at sea were the eight-hour day and 48-hour week. It has been adopted as the standard for industry ashore.

The commission’s final draft reached broad agreement on:

  • – 48-hour weeks for all except for masters, supervising officers, wireless operators, and cattlemen (the draft had foreseen 56-hour weeks at sea and 48 hours in port)
  • – A three-watch system for vessels over 2,000 tons (draft 2,500 tons)
  • – Maximum overtime of 14 hours per week or 60 hours per month to be compensated in pay or time off
  • – 45-hour weeks for ratings in port, with Saturday limited to five hours

All of these conventions ultimately found their way into the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006. MLC 2006 united the provisions of 36 ILO conventions and one protocol adopted between 1920 and 1996.

What Is the Maritime Labour Convention and How Did It Benefit Our Seafarers?

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) entered into force on 20th August 2013. It aims to achieve decent work for seafarers and to secure economic interests through fair competition for quality ship owners.

The convention consists of the sixteen articles containing general provisions as well as the Code. The Code consists of five Titles in which specific provisions are grouped by standard (or in Title 5: mode of enforcement):

  • – Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
  • – Title 2: Conditions of employment
  • – Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering
  • – Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare, and social security protection
  • – Title 5: Compliance and enforcement

The Maritime Labour Convention provides a comprehensive set of basic maritime labour principles. This ensures all seafarers secure their basic employment rights. The working environment and living conditions have largely improved. They are able to make their opinions known to the shipowner. At the same time, the shipowner has a clear identification of his/her overall responsibility.