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ILO To Adopt 'Bill Of Rights' For Seafarers

ILO Press Release

February 6, 2006

The first Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference of the 21st century scheduled here between 7-23 February 2006 will consider a major new international labour instrument, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

The proposed Convention sets out rights to decent conditions of work for the world's 1.2 million seafarers and covers a wide range of subjects, including health, safety, minimum age, recruitment, hours of work and other vital issues affecting a seafarer's life. If adopted, the Convention will consolidate and update more than 65 international maritime labour instruments adopted over the last 80 years.

"The Maritime Labour Convention is an important strategic move forward in the ILO's promotion of its decent work agenda. The proposed Convention provides realistic solutions for achieving universal application and enforcement as it is the product of negotiation and consensus between seafarers, shipowners and Governments coming from over 80 countries", ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said.

The Convention will become the "fourth pillar" of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key conventions of the International Maritime Organization such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 as amended (SOLAS), the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping, 1978 as amended (STCW) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 73/78 (MARPOL).

"The real challenge is to make sure that these provisions will be applied and enforced worldwide, just like the international provisions designed to secure safety at sea and combat marine pollution", the ILO Director-General said.

The new Convention is intended to achieve universal - or near universal - compliance by operators and owners of ships. Provisions for complaint procedures available to seafarers; for the shipowners' and shipmasters' supervision of conditions on their ships; for the flag States' jurisdiction and control over their ships; and for port State inspections of foreign ships will create a continuous and integrated system that will ensure that these standards are fully enforced.

The proposed Convention will require flag States to put in place a stronger enforcement regime, backed up by a certification system and periodic flag State inspections to ensure compliance. To keep the Convention updated and relevant, the ILO is proposing a simplified amendment procedure, enabling the Convention to be kept current with the constant changes in shipping operations and technology.

The proposed Maritime Labour Convention also aims to prevent unfair competition. A clause will keep the ships of a State that has not ratified the Convention from being treated more favourably than ships flying the flag of a State that has ratified.

"This is one way to help achieve the goal of a near universal ratification of the Convention. It was drafted in a way that it will create a level playing field for all participants, including governments, shipowners and seafarers. It has sometimes been called "a seafarers' bill of rights" but everybody involved in shipping has a part to play in making this Convention come to life. Knowledge of the Convention will become essential for anyone seeking to own, operate or regulate ships or to work at sea", concludes Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO's International Labour Standards Department.

As a part of its campaign to raise awareness of the issue and the importance of this Convention the ILO recently opened a special information site on its website. The site contains an interactive list of "frequently asked Questions" (FAQ), the draft Convention and a comprehensive Office Report, which outlines the expected impact of the Convention on the maritime sector, as well as providing a detailed commentary on the provisions.

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