Maritime Labour Convention

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MLC, C186
Maritime Labour Convention
Ratifications of the Maritime Labour Convention
  Ratification, convention not yet in force
  Instrument of ratification deposited, but not registered
Drafted 7 February 2006
Signed 23 February 2006
Location Geneva
Effective 20 August 2013[1]
Condition 30 ratifications; representing 33% of gross tonnage of ships
Parties 55
Ratifiers 67
Depositary Director-General of the International Labour Office
Languages French and English
16px Maritime Labour Convention at Wikisource

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is an International Labour Organization convention established in 2006 as the fourth pillar of international maritime law and embodies "all up-to-date standards of existing international maritime labour Conventions and Recommendations, as well as the fundamental principles to be found in other international labour Conventions".[2] The other "pillars are the SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL. The treaties applies to all ships entering the harbours of parties to the treaty (port states), as well as to all states flying the flag of state party (flag states, as of 2013: 50 per cent).

The convention entered into force on 20 August 2013, one year after registering 30 ratifications of countries representing over 33 per cent of the world gross tonnage of ships.[1] Already after five ratifications the ratifying countries (Bahamas, Norway, Liberia, Marshall Islands, and Panama) represented over 43 per cent of the gross world tonnage[3] (which is over 33 per cent; the second requirement for entry into force). As of October 2015, the convention has been ratified by 67 states representing 80 per cent of global shipping.

Content and organization[edit]

The convention consists of the sixteen articles containing general provisions as well as the Code. The Code consists of five Titles in which specific provisions are grouped by standard (or in Title 5: mode of enforcement):

  • 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

For Each Title, there are general Standards, which are further specified in mandatory Regulations (list A) as well as Guidelines (List B). Guidelines generally form a form of implementation of a Regulation according to the requirements, but States are free to have different implementation measures. Regulations should in principle be implemented fully, but a country can implement a "substantially equivalent" regulation, which it should declare upon ratification.

Some seafarers criticize the convention, saying that it lacks teeth, does not address real issues, and skirts important seafarer needs such as decent sized cabins, cupboards in cabins, shore leave, and rest hours by including them into Guidelines (List B) of the convention—or worse, by not addressing them at all.[4]

Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship[edit]

The minimum requirements set out in this section of the code are divided in 4 parts and are summarized below:

  • Minimum age requirements: the mimimum age is 16 years (18 for night work and work in hazardous areas).
  • Medical fitness: workers should be medically fit for the duties they are performing. Countries should issue medical certificates as defined in the STCW (or use a similar standard).
  • Training: Seafarers should be trained for their duties as well as have had a personal safety training.
  • Recruitment/placement services located in member states or for ships flying the flag of member states should have (amongst others) proper placement procedures, registration, complaint procedures and compensation if the recruitment fails

Title 2: Employment conditions[edit]

The Title on employment conditions lists conditions of the contract and payments, as well as the working conditions on ships.

  • Contracts: the contract should be clear, legally enforceable and incorporate collective bargaining agreements (if existent).
  • Payments: Wages should be paid at least every month, and should be transferrable regularly to family if so desired.
  • Rest hours: rest hours should be implemented in national legislation. The maximum hours of work in that legislation should not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period, or: at least ten hours of rest in any 24-hour period and 77 hours (rest) in any seven-day period. Furthermore, the daily hours of rest may not be divided into more than two periods and, at least six hours of rest should be given consecutively in one of those two periods.
  • Leave: Seafarers have a right to annual leave as well as shore leave.
  • Repatriation: Returning to their country of residence should be free
  • Loss: If a ship is lost or foundered, the seafarers have a right to an unemployment payments.
  • Manning: Every ship should have a sufficient manning level

Title 3: Accommodation, Recreational Facilities, Food and Catering[edit]

The title specifies rules detailed rules for accommodation and recreational facilities, as well as food and catering.

  • Accommodation: Accommodation for living and/or working should be "promoting the seafarers' health and well-being". Detailed provisions (in rules and guidelines) give minimum requirements for various types of rooms (mess rooms, recreational rooms, dorms etc.).
  • Food and Catering: Both food quality and quantity, including water should be regulated in the flag state. Furthermore, cooks should have proper training.

Title 4: Health Protection, Medical Care, Welfare and Social Security Protection[edit]

Title 4 consists of 5 regulations about Health, Liability, Medical care, Welfare and Social security.

  • Medical care on board ship and ashore: Seafarers should be covered for and have access to medical care while on board; in principle at no cost and of a quality comparable to the standards of health care on shore. Countries through which territory a ship is passing should guarantee treatment on shore in serious cases.
  • Shipowners' liability: Seafarers should be protected from the financial effects of "sickness, injury or death occurring in connection with their employment". This includes at least 16 weeks of payment of wages after start of sickness.
  • Health and safety protection and accident prevention: A safe and hygienic environment should be provided to seafarers both during working and resting hours and measures should be taken to take reasonable safety measures.
  • Access to shore-based welfare facilities: Port states should provide "welfare, cultural, recreational and information facilities and services" and to provide easy access to these services. The access to these facilities should be open to all seafarers irrespective of race, sex, religion or political opinion.
  • Social security: Social security coverage should be available to seafarers (and in case it is customary in the flag state: their relatives).

Title 5: Compliance and Enforcement[edit]

Title 5 sets standers to ensure compliance with the convention. The title distinguishes requirements for flag states and port states.

  • Flag states: Flag states (the state under which flag the ship operates) are responsible for ensuring implementation of the rules on the ships that fly its flag. Detailed inspections result in the issue of a "Certificate of Maritime Compliance", which should always be present (and valid) on a ship. Ships are required to have decent complaints procedures in place for its crew and should institute investigations in case of casualties.
  • Port States: The inspection in ports depends on whether a Certificate of Maritime Compliance is present (and thus a flag is flown of a country which has ratified the convention). If the Certificate is present, compliance is to be assumed in principle, and further investigations only take place if the certificate is not in order or there are indications of non-compliance. For ships that don't have the certificate, inspections are much more detailed and should ensure -according to a "no more favorable treatment principle"[5] that the ship has complied with the provisions of the convention. The convention is thus -indirectly- also valid for ships of non-member countries if they plan to call to ports of a member state.
  • Labour agencies: Agencies supplying on maritime workers to ships should also be inspected to ensure that they apply the convention (amongst others the regulations regarding to social security).


After tripartite negotiations had started in 2001, the convention was adopted during the 94th International Labour Convention in 2006. The convention received 314 votes in favour and none against by representatives of the government, employers and workers, who each held a single vote per country.[6]


(cumulative by year)

Blue: Ratifications
Green: Parties

ImageSize = width:auto height:180 barincrement:40 PlotArea = left:50 bottom:15 top:10 right:18 AlignBars = justify DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:0 till:70 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:0 PlotData=

 color:skyblue width:40
 bar:2006 from:start till:1 text:1
 bar:2007 from:start till:2 text:2
 bar:2008 from:start till:3 text:3
 bar:2009 from:start till:5 text:5   
 bar:2010 from:start till:11 text:11
 bar:2011 from:start till:21 text:21
 bar:2012 from:start till:31 text:31
 bar:2013 from:31 till:51 text:51
 bar:2014 from:53 till:64 text:64
 bar:2015 from:55 till:67 text:67
 color:green width:40
   bar:2013 from:start till:31 text:31
   bar:2014 from:start till:53 text:53
   bar:2015 from:start till:63 text:63


As of October 2015, the treaty has been ratified by 67 countries (excluding Lebanon, for which registration is pending the finalization of formalities), many of which are large flag states in terms of the tonnage they transport. The European Union advised its (then) 27 members to ratify the treaty by 31 December 2010.[7] The EU Decision provides: "Member States are hereby authorised to ratify, for the parts falling under Community competence, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, of the International Labour Organisation, adopted on 7 February 2006. Member States should make efforts to take the necessary steps to deposit their instruments of ratification of the Convention with the Director-General of the International Labour Office as soon as possible, preferably before 31 December 2010." As of May 2015, 20 countries had done so, while Croatia did so before it entered the European Union.[2] The convention entered into force on 20 August 2013 for the 30 countries that ratified it prior to 20 August 2013. For other countries, the convention enters into force one year after registration of their instrument of ratification.

Country Ratification Entry into force Notes  % of world gross tonnage[8]
23x15px Antigua and Barbuda 11 August 2011 20 August 2013 21.0
23x15px Argentina 28 May 2014 28 May 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Australia 21 December 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Bahamas 11 February 2008 20 August 2013 25.0
23x15px Bangladesh 6 November 2014 6 November 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Barbados 20 June 2013 20 June 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Belize 8 July 2014 8 July 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Belgium 20 August 2013 20 August 2014 10.4
23x15px Benin 13 June 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 January 2010 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Bulgaria 12 April 2010 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Canada 15 June 2010 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Cape Verde 6 October 2015 6 October 2016
23x15px Republic of the Congo 7 April 2014 7 April 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Croatia 12 February 2010 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Cyprus 20 July 2012 20 August 2013 22.0
23x15px Denmark 23 June 2011 20 August 2013 including Faroe Islands (since 9 July 2014)
excluding Greenland
21.06 (Danish International Ship Register)
23x15px Fiji 10 October 2014 10 October 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Finland 9 January 2013 9 January 2014 0<0.3
23x15px France 28 February 2013 28 February 2014 Including New Caledonia 0<0.3
23x15px Gabon 25 September 2014 25 September 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Germany 16 August 2013 16 August 2014 21.38
23x15px Ghana 16 August 2013 16 August 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Greece 4 January 2013 4 January 2014 25.3
23x15px Hungary 31 July 2013 31 July 2014 0<0.3
23x15px India 9 October 2015 9 October 2016
23x15px Iran 11 June 2014 11 June 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Ireland 21 July 2014 21 July 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Italy 19 November 2013 19 November 2014 21.4
23x15px Japan 5 August 2013 5 August 2014 21.4
23x15px Kenya 31 July 2014 31 July 2015 0<0.3
23x15px South Korea 9 January 2014 9 January 2015 21.6%
23x15px Kiribati 24 October 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Latvia 12 August 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Lebanon 18 February 2013 no declaration 0<0.3
23x15px Liberia 7 June 2006 20 August 2013 311.1
23x15px Lithuania 20 August 2013 20 August 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Luxembourg 19 September 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Malaysia 20 August 2013 20 August 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Maldives 7 October 2014 7 October 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Malta 21 January 2013 21 January 2014 24.3
23x15px Marshall Islands 25 September 2007 20 August 2013 26.1
23x15px Mauritius 30 May 2014 30 May 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Montenegro 3 February 2015 3 February 2016 0<0.3
23x15px Morocco 10 September 2012 10 September 2013 26.1
23x15px Netherlands 13 December 2011 20 August 2013 only the European part of the Kingdom and (since 14 April 2015)


23x15px Nicaragua 20 December 2013 20 December 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Nigeria 18 June 2013 18 June 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Norway 10 February 2009 20 August 2013 21.5 (Norwegian International Ship Register)
23x15px Palau 29 May 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Panama 6 February 2009 20 August 2013 322.6
23x15px Philippines 20 August 2012 20 August 2013 10.6
23x15px Poland 3 May 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Russia 20 August 2012 20 August 2013 10.6
23x15px Saint Kitts and Nevis 21 February 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 9 November 2010 20 August 2013 10.6
23x15px Samoa 21 November 2013 21 November 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Serbia 15 March 2013 15 March 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Seychelles 7 January 2014 7 January 2015 0<0.3
23x15px Singapore 15 June 2011 20 August 2013 24.8
23x15px South Africa 20 June 2013 20 June 2014 0<0.3
23x15px Spain 4 February 2010 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Sweden 12 June 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x16px  Switzerland 21 February 2011 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Togo 14 March 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px Tuvalu 16 February 2012 20 August 2013 0<0.3
23x15px United Kingdom 7 August 2013 7 August 2014 extended to Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, and Gibraltar 22.7
23x15px Vietnam 8 May 2013 8 May 2014 10.4
Ratifications: 67 In force: 63 Total: 80%

Effect on other conventions[edit]

The convention changed the status of 37 ILO conventions, which meant that these conventions upon entry into force of this convention will close for ratification (if not already) and that entry into force for a specific country meant automatic denouncement the other conventions (if not already).


While the authors of MLC 2006 called it the fourth pillar of maritime policy, many seafarers themselves and industry bodies saw it as a rather weak convention which did not materially change life at sea.[9] From this perspective, the more important parts of the convention have been placed in the non-mandatory section "B"; other issues, such as air conditioning or interpretations of what could be termed as good nutritious food, are not addressed by the convention. Some seafarers have complained that the convention does not carry any stipulations to make the crew cabins on cargo ships any bigger than they currently are and does not increase the number of cupboards or shelves, which are typically minimal on cargo ships. The convention also does not address the issues of rest hours during work or rest when joining ship; these issues are determined by crew and companies alone.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Philippines ratification marks global milestone for decent work for seafarers". ILO. 20 August 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Treaty text of the Maritime Labour Convention". ILO. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  3. "Panama and Norway ratify Maritime Labour Convention". 12 February 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2010. Together the five flags represent 43 cent of the world's shipping tonnage. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lavelle, Jennifer. The Maritime Labour Convention 2006: International labour law redefined (PDF). London: Informa Law Routledge. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  5. George Politakis. "ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, Abstract" (PDF). International Foundation for the Law of the Sea. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  6. "Maritime Labour Convention, 2006". Government of the United Kingdom. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011. 
  7. "2007/431/EC: Council Decision of 7 June 2007 authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Community, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, of the International Labour Organisation". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 30 October 2010. 
  8. "Review of Maritime Transport 2010" (PDF). UNCTAD secretariat. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  9. "The International Labour Organization's Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) comes into force today". The Maritime Sun. 24 August 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 

External links[edit]