HomeFAQsMaritime ResourcesHas the U.S. ratified the ILO Maritime Labor Convention?

Has the U.S. ratified the ILO Maritime Labor Convention?


No, the U.S. has not ratified the ILO’s Maritime Labor Convention (MLC). However, the U.S. has prepared for the inescapable impact the MLC will have on global shipping by creating a circular and certification program that helps U.S. vessels become voluntarily compliant with the convention’s standards.

The Purpose of the MLC

Forty-seven countries have so far ratified the MLC at the time of this writing (October 2013), representing about three-quarters of the world’s gross tonnage of ships. The convention was created in order to improve working conditions for seafarers and to improve fair competition for ship owners. The new standards will significantly impact the entire global shipping industry, purportedly for the better.

And ILO promises that the convention is not merely legislative fluff, but that it’s meant to improve employment conditions and workplace safety standards for the world’s 1.5 million seafarers.

The United State’s Hesitance in Ratifying the MLC

So, if the MLC promises to improve life for seafarers and the international shipping industry, why hasn’t the U.S. adopted it? Marc C. Gorrie, a port welfare worker and Maritime Labour Convention education program collaborator, shares a few thoughts on the U.S.’s refusal to ratify the convention in a post for the Foreign Policy Blogs website.

Because of the “no more favorable treatment” clause, American ships will be subject to inspection at MLC-ratified foreign ports and they will be expected to be in compliance. Gorrie notes: “Substantial delays could be caused for a ship to go through a full inspection, then if there are deficiencies the ship will be expected to remedy them before departure, which will affect the economic efficiency of the vessel and its voyage.”

He also notes that between 15,000 and 25,000 seafarers crew members aboard 1,000 American ships will be affected by the MLC “irrespective of U.S. ratification.”

Non-Ratification May Be a Mere Technicality

Whenever a U.S. vessel makes port at a MLC-ratified country, it will still be required to be in compliance with the convention. The U.S. has recognized the impact the convention will have on our country, and the United States Coast Guard aims to help ships voluntarily comply.

The United States Coast Guard’s Guidance Implementing the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 circular and its Statement of Voluntary Compliance (SOVC) certification means that U.S. ship owners still have an instrument that can help them meet MLC standards and avoid negative repercussions of non-compliance.

The bottom-line is that workers aboard American vessels will still be affected by the MLC, regardless of whether or not the U.S. officially ratifies it.

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