Called the Seafarer’s Bill of Rights, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC-2006) recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and the big question on the minds of many in the shipping industry is, “What impact is it having?” Judging by the fact that the number of International Labour Organization (ILO) member countries that have ratified MLC-2006 has more than doubled, the impact promises to be significant.
Just 30 countries–representing 33 percent of the world’s gross tonnage–originally ratified the convention, sending it into effect in August 2013. Now, 64 countries–representing more than 80 percent of the world fleet–have signed on, and ILO leaders expect that “all 185 ILO members that have maritime interests, either as a home country to the world’s seafarers or as a flag or port State, will eventually ratifiy the MLC, 2006,” according to a recent article in Safety4Sea.
To hear seafarers on a ship describe what MLC-2006 means to them, watch the video the ILO produced to commemorate the anniversary.
Regarding widespread impact, the ILO will soon receive national reports from the original 30 countries that ratified the convention, and will review those reports to glean information about how MLC-2006 is being implemented, how many ships have been inspected or detained, and how life onboard may have changed for seafarers.
One key way that life for seafarers may improve is from new technologies for broadband connectivity and content delivery that are leading to increased availability of Internet access onboard. Many ship operators are seeing Internet access as a way to boost crew morale and meet MLC-2006 Regulation 3.1, which relates to providing seafarers with recreational facilities, including “…reasonable access to ship-to-shore telephone communications, and email and Internet facilities…”
Considering the results of “The Crew Communications Survey 2014,” regarding seafarer views of crew communications, there is still a long way to go:
- 50% of seafarers believe access to communications has not improved in the past two years
- 56% of seafarers have Internet access and use it daily, but only 13% have free Internet access
- 49% cite cost as the reason why they limit their use of crew communications