Substantial Equivalence

Aimed at ensuring flexibility in the implementation of maritime instruments, the concept of substantial equivalence is defined in article VI(3) of the MLC, 2006 which provides that a ratifying State may, unless expressly provided otherwise in the Convention, implement the rights and principles of the Convention in a manner different from that set out in mandatory Standards if it satisfies itself that the relevant legislation or other implementing measure is conducive to the fill achievement of the general object and purpose of the provisions of those Standards and gives effect to those provisions. 

The obligation of the ratifying State is to “satisfy itself”, which nevertheless does not imply total autonomy, since it is incumbent on the authorities responsible for monitoring implementation at the national and international levels to determine not only whether the necessary procedure of “satisfying themselves” has been carried out but also whether it has been carried out in good faith.

The notion of substantial equivalence was also included in article 2(a) of the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 147) to reflect the idea that deviations from the terms of the Convention could be admitted as long as the general level of protection remained the same. In its 1990 General Survey on Convention No. 147, the Committee of Experts clarified that “the test for substantial equivalence may be, first, whether the State has demonstrated its respect for or acceptance of the main general goal of the Convention and enacted laws or regulations which conduce to its realisation; and if so, secondly, whether the effect of such laws or regulations is to ensure that in al material respects the subordinate goals of the Convention are achieved.”