GENEVA (ILO News) - A new maritime labour Convention that consolidates and updates a wide range of labour standards adopted since the 1920's concerning shipowners and seafarers in the maritime sector will be considered by some 500 tripartite delegates from more than 70 ILO Member States at a two week conference starting here today.
The " Preparatory Technical Maritime Conference", hosted by the International Labour Office (ILO) following two and a half years of negotiation and consultation among governments, employers and workers, is to consider a new draft of a consolidated Convention for the maritime industry with a view to its adoption by the Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference by the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006.
Delegates to the Conference will work to combine elements of all relevant standards approved in the framework of the ILO, including 30 Conventions, 29 Recommendations and 1 Protocol ( Note 1).
"The representatives from member States are looking for global standards applicable to the whole industry that are simple, clear, consistent, practicable, acceptable, adaptable and enforceable", said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO department that promotes the new instrument. "It is an effort to develop an efficient instrument for one of the world's first genuinely global industries that is crucially important to the global economy in that it moves some 90 percent of the world's trade."
A new Convention "will not call into question the legal status or substance of existing maritime labour instruments, but rather provide more consistency and clarity, more rapid adaptability and general applicability", she added.
More than 1.2 million seafarers work for the world's shipping industry. One of the goals of the ILO is to bring the system of labour protection already contained in existing standards closer to the workers concerned "in a form that is consistent with this rapidly developing, globalized sector".
Regarding the applicability of the new standards discussed in the framework of the consolidated Convention, the goal is to balance the requirements placed on shipowners and governments for providing decent conditions of work and ensuring that maritime workers are protected.
The new draft Convention is expected to consider such issues as minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, conditions of employment, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social protection, and compliance and enforcement.
In 2001 the Joint Maritime Commission (JMC) that includes shipowner and seafarer representatives as well as tripartite participation from the ILO's Governing Body approved a "Geneva Accord" concerning the review of maritime labour standards, which was later accepted by the Governing Body of the ILO. The Accord calls for "an international regulatory response of an appropriate kind - global standards applicable to the entire industry".
Since then a High-level Tripartite Group established by the ILO Governing Body and its subgroup have met six times, most recently in the French city of Nantes in January 2004. "This Preparatory Technical Maritime Conference is the result of a highly intensive and extensive consultation process", explained Ms. Doumbia-Henry.
The consultation process was complemented by specific opportunities for governments and ship owner and seafarer representatives to present their own views.
For more information, please visit our website at www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/maritime/index.htm.
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Note 1 - The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations. The ILO's Conventions are international treaties, subject to ratification by ILO member States. Its Recommendations are non-binding instruments - typically dealing with the same subjects as Conventions - which set out guidelines which can orient national policy and action.