The ILO's Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world's more than 1.2 million seafarers. The Convention aims to achieve both decent work for seafarers and secure economic interests in fair competition for quality shipowners. As an estimated 90% of world trade is carried on ships seafarers are essential to international trade and the international economic and trade system. The new labour standard consolidates and updates more than 68 international labour standards related to the Maritime sector adopted over the last 80 years.
The Convention sets out seafarers' rights to decent conditions of work on a wide range of subjects, and aims to be globally applicable, easily understandable, readily updatable and uniformly enforced. It has been designed to become a global instrument known as the "fourth pillar" of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The decision by the ILO to move forward to create this major new Maritime Labour Convention was the result of a joint resolution in 2001 by the international seafarers’ and ship owners’ organizations, also supported by governments. They pointed out that the shipping industry is “the world’s first genuinely global industry” which “requires an international regulatory response of an appropriate kind – global standards applicable to the entire industry”.