ITF addresses failures of MLC implementation with shipowners and governments at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

Last week the fourth meeting of the ILO Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, took place to consider the implementation of the MLC during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also a debate on vaccinations.

The ITF negotiations were led by Seafarers Section Vice Chair Mark Dickinson, and a number of affiliates. After some negotiations, ITF were able to propose a resolution with the shipowners, subsequently amended by Governments. 

The resolution adopted a call on Members States to convene an inter-agency task force to consider the impact of the pandemic on the application of the MLC, and on seafarers’ fundamental rights and the shipping industry. ITF hope to open up the debate on how the structure of the industry has inevitably failed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The resolution also reiterated previous ILO calls on Member States to ensure seafarers are repatriated at the end of their contracts, obtain shore leave, to always receive medical treatment when required and to uphold all parts of the MLC.

The resolution also called on Governments to enable seafarers to obtain vaccinations when calling at their territories. The issue of vaccinations for seafarers was more extensively debated with a resolution that was submitted by the Government of Cyprus. 

The resolution sets out how Governments should make vaccinations available for seafarers, recognise other countries vaccinations and establish hubs in key ports where there is capacity, where lots of seafarers travel and vaccines are available. Finally also to consider the establishment, in consultation with social partners and the WHO and IMO, a coordinated international programme to facilitate seafarers access to the vaccinations. 

Fabrizio Barcellona, ITF Seafarers & Inland Navigation Section Coordinator, says that he very much view this as a positive development although some Governments were very reluctant to make commitments on their vaccine roll out at an ILO meeting. However, the ITF and the shipowners advised the meeting that the MLC requires Governments to protect the health and safety of seafarers.

ITF now hopes that the Governments will follow up by taking more responsibility than they have up to now to ensure that seafarers can be repatriated at the end of their contracts and have all rights under the MLC upheld, whilst accepting additional safety procedures may be required when national restrictions for other citizens are in place. 

This is of course all the more important as the pandemic continues to impact negatively across the world and Governments consider putting in more restrictions at their borders.

For information the resolutions are attached here: