Ship inspections

Taking Decent Work on Board

When the ILO adopted the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 in February 2006, Director-General Juan Somavia called it “making labour history” for seafarers around the world. Two years on, the MLC has been ratified by three key flag states representing nearly 20 per cent of the world’s gross tonnage. Many more ratifications and industry agreements are already under way. A five-year ILO action plan designed to achieve entry into force by 2011 is moving forward this month with two key tripartite experts’ meetings to adopt guidelines for flag State inspections and port State control officers. The ILO TV crew went on board the “City of London”, where the MLC is already being put to the test.

Date issued: 16 September 2008 | Size/duration: 00:02:58 (8.88 MB)
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In the engine room of the City of London, the smell of salt and oil permeates the air. For six months of the year, this moist and noisy environment is motorman John Grout’s workplace.

In a job like this, decent living and working conditions are particularly important. For example, ensuring decent hours of work and rest.

John Grout, Motorman

The guidelines for work and labour are basically (that) we sign the hours in the rest forms to ensure we get regular sleep, rest and recuperation. I think there is a borderline. I think it is 12 hours a day.

Seafarers move some 90 per cent of the world’s trade. It’s a highly competitive industry that can mean long, hard hours for many months at sea. To protect the ship and its crew, flag state inspections, periodic checks performed by the flag state or country for which a ship sails, look out for safety and labour violations.

But inspection for labour standards – hours of work, living conditions -- often took a backseat. That is about to change….

Neil Atkinson is using the proposed guidelines from a new Maritime Labour Convention adopted by the International Labour Organization.

Neil Atkinson, Marine Surveyor for the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency

The new Convention, because it involves the issuing of a statutory certificate, provides the inspector with greater enforcement powers, in that when a flag state inspection is being undertaken, if it is unsatisfactory, the inspector can not issue the certificate, or refuse to endorse it or, in very bad cases, withdraw the certificate.

Under the new Convention a ship can be detained in port if social or labour rights are being violated. This was not the case before and once the new convention comes into force this certificate will give ships swift passage through ports. So it’s in the interest of ship owners as well to make sure their vessels conform.

Stewart Ferrier, General Manager of United Marine Dredging

The compliance with labour standards is important so that you can prove to flag state authorities that you’re operating within the guidelines required, and again the individual and the master know they are operating their vessel in a safe and appropriate manner.

The City of London has passed its inspection and will head back out to sea, with a fast track to the shipping lanes on the horizon like an icon of the Millennium.