The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), 2006 sets forth standards and guidelines that aim to improve working conditions for seafarers and to encourage fair trade. It was adopted by the ILO in 2006, but was only recently put into effect in August of 2013.
The MLC, 2006 is a voluntary international program, and as of September 2013, only 51 countries have officially ratified it. The U.S. is one of the nations that has not adopted it, but workers aboard American ships may still be affected.
If the United States has not adopted the MLC, 2006, why must the Coast Guard and U.S. commercial ships still prepare for it? The reason is because if an American ship enters a foreign country that has ratified the convention, then the ship can run into serious problems because of port State control actions.
When a U.S. vessel calls at a port of a country party to ILO Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, the foreign country has the right to take port State action and enforce the guidelines set forth within the convention – even though the U.S. didn’t ratify it. This is possible because of the “no more favorable treatment” principle, which essentially says that ship owners of non-MLC countries don’t receive favorable treatment over MLC countries.
The port State actions to which American ships will be subject include some rather distressing actions, including potential detention of the vessel. So, in an effort to help U.S. vessels avoid these run-ins at foreign ports, the USCG created the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC), which sets forth inspection policies and procedures so that U.S. ship owners can voluntarily comply with the MLC, 2006.
The NVIC is the USCG’s answer to helping American ships avoid negative repercussions at foreign MLC-abiding ports. When U.S. ship owners willingly agree to comply by NVIC standards, the USCG will issue them a Statement of Voluntary Compliance, Maritime Labour Convention (SOVC-MLC.)
Abiding by these standards not only helps ship owners avoid potential foreign legal hassles, but it may also actually improve working conditions of the employees aboard the ship.
The USCG explains in the circular that in order for the ship to receive its SOVC-MLC, “the ship must successfully conform to 14 areas:
While the U.S. is not party to the ILO Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, American vessel owners and operations are still held to certain standards under U.S. maritime law. If you are a maritime worker and were injured on the job, speak with a maritime attorney to determine your legal rights, and how to go about receiving compensation for your losses.