The MLC, 2006 will benefit both seafarers and quality shipowners

Interview with Arthur Bowring, Managing Director of Hong Kong Shipowners Association

Article | 09 May 2011

Arthur Bowring started his career at sea, at the age of 16, as a deck cadet. From Great Britain, he made several trips abroad both on tankers and container ships. After graduating in Marine Technology he joined the classification society Lloyds Register, as a Trainee Surveyor. He then moved to Geneva to work for a commodity trading company, and then to Hong Kong, where in 1997 he was appointed Managing Director of the Hong Kong Shipowner's Association. “What this can show you is that starting with a career at sea, as a seafarer, you have a lot of opportunities, you can go in any different direction”, he comments. In this interview, Mr Bowring explains the reasons of his commitment to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) and why the Convention is so important to the maritime sector.

What is the reason of your interest in seafarers' welfare today and what is your relation with the MLC, 2006?

Arthur Bowring: As the Chairman of the International Shipping Federation's (ISF) Labour Committee and as the vice Chairman of the Preparatory Tripartite Committee for the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the two major issues that I now deal with are seafarers' welfare and the environment. Having sailed at sea, seafarers' welfare is very close to my heart, and you will find out that many on the shipowners' bench at the ILO are seafarers as well. That is why we have a great interest in this issue. Hence we believe that the MLC, 2006, which we are all very proud of, is going to help seafarers' welfare well into the future.

What makes the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 so important to the maritime sector?

Arthur Bowring: I have been involved directly in the MLC, 2006 since the beginning in 2001, when we had the first meeting at the ILO Joint Maritime Commission, right through the tripartite negotiation process into the Convention itself. The reason that I am so involved now in explaining the Convention is because it is an ILO Convention and not an IMO Convention.; it is very different to the structure of an IMO Convention, both within the Convention and the way it is going to be applied. Within the industry we have people that understand the IMO Conventions, of course, but might not understand the process of ILO Conventions. I am very keen to get across that the Convention itself is actually, for a good shipowner, not a great concern. The MLC, 2006 raises the levels of seafarers' welfare. It raises the levels to which people will have to operate their ships and benefit the seafarers.

How can the seafarers get ready for the MLC, 2006?

Arthur Bowring: Along with the STCW, the MLC, 2006 is probably coming into force during the first half of 2012. There are things that the seafarers can do, and it is very wise now for them to find out as much as they can about the Convention. My advice is to read the documentation about the Convention, read how it is going to change what we are currently doing with certifications, with welfare, with employment agreements, with repatriation. And go through the MLC, 2006, realize what rights you are going to have, realize what responsibilities you have to undertake. As well as, under STCW, realize what continuous training you have to do. If you have any questions, the ILO MLC, 2006 website is full of information, and also the ISF is producing new material. I think that the most prepared we are for these Conventions, the easier it is going to be for everybody.