MLC to protect seafarers’ rights

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

Maritime NZ will be administering the Maritime Labour Convention – and enforcing it on New Zealand-flagged ships and on foreign ships visiting New Zealand ports – from March next year.
Vangelis Vitalis and Guy Ryder.
Maritime New Zealand ©2019
Vangelis Vitalis, pictured with Guy Ryder.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) is an international treaty adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that sets minimum standards for the health, safety and welfare of seafarers on larger commercial vessels.

Ratifying the MLC gives New Zealand the power to inspect and verify that crew on foreign ships carrying New Zealand goods are treated fairly and within internationally accepted standards. It will also create conditions of fair competition for shipowners, and helps protect the reputation of New Zealand exports – given that more than 99 percent of the country’s export goods by weight are transported by foreign ships.

The operators of New Zealand ships will be able to obtain a Maritime Labour Certificate for their vessel. This certificate will enable them to easily demonstrate compliance, if operating overseas, to foreign authorities party to the Convention.

The Convention will apply to about 890 foreign commercial cargo and cruise ships visiting New Zealand annually, and about 30 New Zealand ships. It covers commercial vessels of 200 gross tonnages or more, which operate outside the in-shore limits. It does not apply to fishing vessels.

Around 10 percent of foreign ships visiting New Zealand are from states that have not ratified the Convention and so will not have MLC certification. This number will reduce over time as more states complete the ratification process.

However, the Convention contains a “no more favourable” treatment clause, which means that even where a ship is flagged in a state that has not ratified the Convention, Maritime NZ can still inspect that ship against the Convention standards and take enforcement action if required.

Maritime NZ will check for compliance as part of its routine Port State Control inspections. A Maritime Labour Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance will be prima facie evidence of compliance with the Convention. If a maritime officer has reason to suspect the ship does not comply, a more detailed inspection maybe carried out to assess working and living conditions on board the ship.

New Zealand is the 71st member State of the ILO to have ratified this landmark Convention.

In depositing the instrument of ratification, New Zealand ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, Vangelis Vitalis, says “as a small island nation dependant on maritime trade, New Zealand recognises the importance of ensuring not only the efficiency of shipping, but also the safety and wellbeing of those carrying it out”.

The Convention will come into force in New Zealand on March 9 next year, along with the Maritime Rule changes required to give effect to the Convention in New Zealand law.

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