GENEVA (ILO News) – Spain, which currently holds the European Union Presidency, has become the first EU member state to ratify the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, in a major step toward bringing into force a new, comprehensive “bill of rights” for seafarers.
This key maritime labour Convention, sometimes called the “super convention” was adopted by the 94th (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva in February 2006. In ratifying the MLC, 2006, Spain has implemented an EU Council Decision of 2007 authorizing member States to ratify, in the interest of the European Community, and inviting them to ratify before 31 December 2010. Spain’s leadership as the first EU ratification in early 2010, the International Year of the Seafarer and the year in which all EU Members are expected to ratify, is especially significant.
Spain becomes the seventh country to ratify the Convention and joins a group that includes the world’s four largest flag States. The Bahamas, Liberia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Norway, Panama, and most recently, in January 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country with an emerging maritime interest, have all ratified.
Spain’s ratification reflects its long-standing commitment to the ILO and support for International Labour Standards and the importance of Decent Work. With 132 ratified Conventions, among them 27 in the maritime area, Spain stands out as the ILO Member State with the highest number of ratified Conventions.
With its lengthy maritime tradition, as an important flag State and a country with nearly 10000 active Spanish seafarers, Spain has consistently endeavoured to establish decent working conditions on its ships and, through support for International Labour Standards and its role as an important port State, to help ensure decent working conditions on all ships. Its “Instituto Social de la Marina” for example, provides outstanding services for seafarers, including welfare facilities both on board ship and on shore (Note 1).
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said, “This ratification by Spain underlines its commitment to secure decent conditions of work for seafarers on its ships. This ratification is also a major step forward towards the ultimate entry into force of this important Convention, by leading the way for the other European Union countries.”
One of the two requirements for entry into force of the MLC, 2006 (ratifications to cover 33 per cent of the world gross tonnage) was achieved nearly a year ago. The ratification of Spain and Bosnia and Herzegovina now brings protection to the worlds’ seafarers on nearly 45 per cent of the world fleet by gross tonnage.
Spain’s ratification as a leading EU maritime State is an important step towards achieving the second requirement of 30 ratifying countries. Progress in many other countries indicates that the number of ratifications needed for entry into force will be achieved, as expected, by the fifth birthday of the Convention in early 2011.
Aimed at protecting the world's 1.2 million or more seafarers, the MLC, 2006 addresses the evolving realities and needs of an industry that handles 90 per cent of international trade. It sets out a seafarers' "bill of rights" and is intended to be the “fourth pillar” in the international shipping regulation complementing major maritime Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on environmental protection and ship safety and security. It sets minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship and contains provisions on conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection. Importantly the MLC, 2006 establishes a strong compliance and enforcement mechanism based on flag State inspection and certification of seafarers’ working and living conditions. This is supported by port State inspection of ships to ensure ongoing compliance between inspections. The MLC, 2006 also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry and help secure universal application and enforcement.
Note 1 - Following Spain’s earlier ratification of ILO Conventions related to health and social protection of seafarers, two ships were built to ensure the welfare of seafarers (Esperanza del Mar operating from the Canary Islands in the Canarian-Saharahui bank, and Juan de la Cosa operating in the North).