HomeLibraryMaritime LawThe ILO Maritime Labor Convention: What It is and Who It Covers

The ILO Maritime Labor Convention: What It is and Who It Covers

The Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), commonly known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights,” is the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) international maritime convention that provides standards for safe working environments for seafarers and fair competition for the global shipping industry.

The Purpose of the Maritime Labor Convention

The convention covers nearly every aspect of work and life for those who work aboard ships, helping protect seamen from harsh conditions that might lead to injury.

The ILO explains the purpose of the MLC, 2006: “[I]t brings together, in one place, international minimum standards that ensure decent work for the estimated more than 1.5 million seafarers around the world whose work is essential to international trade as well as to an increasingly important form of tourism and recreational activity.”

Some of the areas the MLC, 2006 provides standards for include:

  • payment of wages;
  • the minimum working age;
  • health and safety protocols;
  • paid annual leave guidelines;
  • employment agreements for seafarers;
  • maximum hours of work and minimum rest times;
  • repatriation at the end of contract;
  • availability of onboard medical care;
  • guidelines for lodging and meals;
  • accident prevention guidelines; and
  • how seafarers’ complaints should be handled.


Who is covered under the MLC, 2006?

Any seafarer working aboard a ship whose flag belongs to a country that has ratified the MLC, 2006 will be covered. A seafarer, as defined as the MLC, 2006, isn’t only crewmembers such as deck hands and navigators; it means anyone working in any capacity aboard a ship as detailed within the convention.

The MLC, 2006 is a voluntary convention. While the goal is to streamline the working conditions for seafarers around the world – an international agreement of sorts – only 51 countries have actually adopted the MLC, 2006 as of this writing in September 2013. And the United States is not one of them.

Does this mean U.S. seafarers aren’t affected by the MLC, 2006?

However, just because the United States hasn’t ratified the MLC, 2006 doesn’t mean it won’t affect American seafarers. If an American ship ventures into a country that has ratified the convention, the ship could be detained at the foreign port if it isn’t in compliance with the MLC, 2006 standards.

To avoid U.S. ship legal mishaps when entering MLC 2006 ratified countries, the U.S. Coast Guard drafted the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC). The publication outlines practices and procedures that U.S. ships might need to adhere to in foreign countries that are party to the convention, which will help them minimize legal difficulties.

We Still Believe in Seamen’s Rights

Although the U.S. is not party to the MLC 2006, seamen still do have rights undermaritime laws. If you are a seaman and have been injured on the job, contact our attorneys to discuss your legal options. Call The Young Firm today at 866-703-2590 to schedule your free consultation.

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