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  1. MLC, 2006, as amended
  2. MLC, 2006 original text

Text and preparatory reports of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

Entry into force: 20 Aug 2013
Adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 94th (Maritime) Session (2006)
Amendments approved by the International Labour Conference at its 103rd Session (2014)

Explanatory note to the regulations and code of the maritime labour convention


1. This explanatory note, which does not form part of the Maritime Labour Convention, is intended as a general guide to the Convention.

2. The Convention comprises three different but related parts: the Articles, the Regulations and the Code.

3. The Articles and Regulations set out the core rights and principles and the basic obligations of Members ratifying the Convention. The Articles
and Regulations can only be changed by the Conference in the framework of article 19 of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation (see Article XIV of the Convention).

4. The Code contains the details for the implementation of the Regulations. It comprises Part A (mandatory Standards) and Part B (non-mandatory Guidelines). The Code can be amended through the simplified procedure set out in Article XV of the Convention. Since the Code relates to detailed implementation, amendments to it must remain within the general scope of the Articles and Regulations.

5. The Regulations and the Code are organized into general areas under five Titles:
Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
Title 2: Conditions of employment
Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering
Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection
Title 5: Compliance and enforcement
 
6. Each Title contains groups of provisions relating to a particular right or principle (or enforcement measure in Title 5), with connected numbering. The first group in Title 1, for example, consists of Regulation 1.1, Standard A1.1 and Guideline B1.1, relating to minimum age.

7. The Convention has three underlying purposes:
(a) to lay down, in its Articles and Regulations, a firm set of rights and principles;
(b) to allow, through the Code, a considerable degree of flexibility in the way Members implement those rights and principles; and
(c) to ensure, through Title 5, that the rights and principles are properly complied with and enforced.
 
8. There are two main areas for flexibility in implementation: one is the possibility for a Member, where necessary (see Article VI, paragraph 3), to give effect to the detailed requirements of Part A of the Code through substantial equivalence (as defined in Article VI, paragraph 4).

9. The second area of flexibility in implementation is provided by formulating the mandatory requirements of many provisions in Part A in a more general way, thus leaving a wider scope for discretion as to the precise action to be provided for at the national level. In such cases, guidance on implementation is given in the nonmandatory Part B of the Code. In this way, Members which have ratified this Convention can ascertain the kind of action that might be expected of them under the corresponding general obligation in Part A, as well as action that would not necessarily be required. For example, Standard A4.1 requires all ships to provide prompt access to the necessary medicines for medical care on board ship (paragraph 1(b)) and to “carry a medicine chest” (paragraph 4(a)). The fulfilment in good faith of this latter obligation clearly means something more than simply having a medicine chest on board each ship. A more precise indication of what is involved is provided in the corresponding Guideline B4.1.1 (paragraph 4) so as to ensure that the contents of the chest are properly stored, used and maintained.

10. Members which have ratified this Convention are not bound by the guidance concerned and, as indicated in the provisions in Title 5 on port State control, inspections would deal only with the relevant requirements of this Convention (Articles, Regulations and the Standards in Part A). However, Members are required under paragraph 2 of Article VI to give due consideration to implementing their responsibilities under Part A of the Code in the manner provided for in Part B having duly considered the relevant Guidelines, a Member decides to provide for different arrangements which ensure the proper storage, use and maintenance of the contents of the medicine chest, to take the example given above, as required by the Standard in Part A, then that is acceptable. On the other hand, by following the guidance provided in Part B, the Member concerned, as well as the ILO bodies responsible for reviewing implementation of international labour Conventions, can be sure without further consideration that the arrangements the Member has provided for are adequate to implement the responsibilities under Part A to which the Guideline relates.