Morgan & Morgan
  March 19, 2012 - Panama

Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 and its Importance
  by Gianela Rivas

The Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 is an instrument that contains an approximate of 70 different provisions on labor-related matters in the maritime industry, which was approved by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in view of the absence of minimum standards that offered labor security and decent living conditions to the seafarers. 

The Maritime Labor Convention is expected to take effect before the end of 2013.   To come into full force and effect, it is necessary that (i) it be ratified by at least 30 ILO members, and (ii) that the ratifying members represent 33% of world tonnage.  This second condition was already achieved upon ratification by Panama, which was the fourth country to ratify the Convention. Currently, 24 members of the ILO have ratified it.

Once the Convention comes into effect, it is considered to become the fourth pillar of the international laws of the maritime industry, which consist of: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW).

According to ILO data, there are more than 1.2 million seafarers in the world and the Convention seeks to regulate their working environment in a unified manner by establishing modern standards and decent working conditions, which apply to all seafarers alike.  In this manner, equitable rules of global application are established which benefits not only the workers, but governments and shipowners, by standardizing the rules on maritime labor. Additionally, the Convention establishes a clause of no more favorable treatment, which means that the provisions of the Convention shall apply to all ships irrespective of whether their flag has ratified the Convention.

The Convention was drawn up after a long process involving government representatives, shipowners and seafarers, who all agreed to the minimum requirements for the development of the work of seafarers, regardless of the flag of the vessel. The Convention regulates matters concerning the hours of rest, resting place, medical care, food, minimum age, among others. It was developed in two main parts, the first of binding compliance and the second of recommendations.

Another innovation of the Convention is that the seafarers' definition includes any person who works or is employed aboard a ship, in any office or position. This means that the Convention does not limit its application to the officers in charge of navigation of the ship.

With the entry into force of the Convention, our country faces several challenges such as completion of the training of our inspectors in order to fulfill the monitoring responsibility, contained in the Convention, of the ships part of our merchant marine, and the significant work of our authorities to achieve the unification of our internal rules, so as to achieve consistency with the Convention and to consolidate our position as a leader in the maritime industry.