ILO MLC a year on – an interview with Rob Brindle

Robert Brindle, Lloyd’s Register’s ILO MLC 2006 and STCW specialist was interviewed at the Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference on the impact of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) a year into its implementation.

Take a look at some of his responses below:

When will the countries that traditionally supply crew ratify the Convention?

65 countries have ratified the Convention to date. Of the traditional labour supply countries, the Philippines, Russia and the Baltic States have ratified the Convention with the exception of Estonia. China, India and the Ukraine have not ratified yet.

How uniform is implementation?

A common misconception of the MLC 2006 is that it applies directly to ships and seafarers and it does not.  The Convention is addressed to Member States and Convention requirements are applied through the national laws and regulations specific to that country.  MLC 2006 was carefully written to get as many countries as possible to support it and a fundamental provision of the Convention is to allow countries the flexibility to implement MLC 2006 in a way that suits the individual country.  This has not been a problem for LR or other recognised organisations because we inspect against Flag Administration requirements but it has been a challenge for ship managers running multi-flag fleets where they have to adjust their generic DMLC Part II to take account of the Flag state requirements.

How do seafarers perceive MLC?

Seafarers are aware of the MLC and why it has been implemented but they might not know how it could benefit them. One of the disappointments for me has been the lack of MLC awareness training provided by companies to their seafarers.  We had one company that wrote possibly the best complaints procedure we have seen but then forgot to tell their seafarers about it!  This is something LR can help with and we have several training courses that help our companies raise awareness of the Convention.  

Have there been any contentious issues around MLC 2006?

The MLC has been a challenge for our auditors and surveyors carrying out inspections because they have had to deal with matters that they have never had to consider before such us:

  • The relationships between the ship managers and the crew managers.
  • Crewman agreements.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements.
  • Seafarer Employment Agreements.

 So they have been on a steep learning curve.  There have also been some issues around the MLC definition of the ‘shipowner’.  This is a personal viewpoint but it is a pity that when the Convention was drafted the word ‘company’ was not used to provide a clear link to the ISM DOC holder.  However from a recognised organisations perspective it is not a problem because we apply Flag Administration requirements.

How has Port State Control (PSC) been impacted by MLC?

The Paris MOU issued a press release on 17th November which showed 113 ships had been detained for MLC-related deficiencies since the Convention came into force. .  There is a greater number of ships that have been found with MLC related deficiencies but those deficiencies have not been enough for the ship to be detained.  So yes, PSC has been impacted by MLC and it has been a challenge for PSC officers because they are dealing with issues that they have not necessarily come across before.

How has the tanker industry dealt with MLC implementation?

Tanker companies are used to the inspection process whether statutory or industry led, so MLC has not been a particular problem.

MLC 2.0 on the horizon?

MLC is unlike other conventions such as ISM where convention requirements apply to ships from a set date.  With MLC we have a rolling programme of ratifications and entry into force dates, with many countries still to ratify.  The first amendments to MLC were agreed at the International Labour Conference in June 2014 and they are due to enter in to force in late 2016.  I think we need to see how those amendments impact the MLC first before version 2.0 can be considered.

To find out more about what LR is doing to help companies comply with the ILO MLC 2006, go to www.lr.org/mlc.