Maritime Labor Convention to get implemented ahead of ratification

Jun 29, 2011, 2:24PM EST
Maritime Labor Convention to the seafarer’s rescue

Even though India is yet to ratify the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), set to come into force from 1st January 2012, Dr. S. B. Agnihotri, the Director General of Shipping (DGS), Government of India has been on his toes taking proactive steps to ensure the trade is abreast of the developments in this direction and implements the various requirements ahead of the deadline of 1st January 2012. In a recent half day program held on 24th June 2011 Dr. Agnihotri was categorical in pointing out to the representatives of shipping and manning companies as well as classification societies that there was no question of waiting until the last minute for implementation because they would certainly find themselves on the wrong foot.

The ILO's Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), 2006 provides comprehensive rights and protection at work and living conditions for the world's more than 1.2 million seafarers.  As of now 16 countries have ratified this convention. The Convention aims to achieve both decent works for seafarers and secure economic interests in fair competition for quality ship owners.

Even though India keenly favors the convention it would take at least a year before it gets ratified by the Indian Parliament. But that does not protect ships from getting detained in foreign ports by their respective port state control for non-compliance of the MLC convention. Indicating the Indian administration’s uncompromising approach, the DGS bluntly indicated the directorates stand by stating, “If your ship goes abroad and gets detained after this convention comes into force, and you approach me for assistance I will on the contrary ask you ‘where is your self assessment?’”

Talking on a stick and carrot approach that the directorate planned to take he further stated, “The directorate will on the other hand come out with an effective and beneficial scheme like insurance companies that give no claim bonuses. If you get your class to gives you certification of having complied with the MLC, then our PSC will also give you a place of privilege. ”

The big turnout at the seminar clearly indicated the overwhelming interest that had been generated amongst the various stakeholders. Getting into an interactive mode following the usual inaugural session the directorate sought to put to rest different problems bedeviling the stakeholders.  Representatives used this forum to redress their problems and sought out to their doubts and qualms they harbored.  

Two key issues took center stage. The first was the question of implementing safe manning in the light of the MLC which could prove to be unproductive. Capt M. C. Yadav, who has been representing India at the IMO committee meetings pointed out that safe manning was an issue that had been discussed at lengths at earlier meetings but no decision could be arrived at. This matter has been left to the flag states to decided, however there is a lot of flexibility in this aspect.   

Another was the right of any crew member to approach the port state control authority and lodge a complaint. The complaint officer of the flag state is obliged to ensure that matter is resolved. What was of concern to ship owners was the possibility of ships getting detained on flimsy grounds causing a loss to the owner. They were assured that only on proper investigation and only if there were strong grounds in the complaint could appropriate action be taken.




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