Stakeholders presses government to ratify The Maritime Labor Convention of 2006

Stakeholders in the maritime industry has again called on the Philippine government to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (MLC 2006) in order that it will be one of the thirty ratifying countries re­quired for the convention to take effect.

The campaign for the early ratification MLC2006 is the focus of this year’s celebration of the 16th National Seafarers’ Day and the 3rd Na­tional Maritime Week.

Under Proclamation No.1049 issued in 1997 by then president Fidel V. Ramos, the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sector in activities related to the National Seafarers’ Day during the last Sunday of September every year. This year’s 16th National Seafarers’ Day celebration fell on September 25, 2011with the theme “Marinong Pilipino: Lakas ng Pagkakaisa!” It embodies the unified attitude of the Filipino Seafarers’ ideals, morals and cause.

This year’s NSD served as the kick- off of the National Maritime Week (NMW). On July 17, 2008, then President Gloria M. Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1560 declaring last Friday of September of every year as “National Maritime Day” , spearheaded by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Phil­ippine Ports Authority (PPA)/ Cebu Ports Authority.

With the recent ratification by Antigua and Barbuda last August 11, 2011 of the MLC 2006, 18 member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO) have now ratified this important Convention, which sets out minimum standards and fair working conditions for seafarers worldwide. While the first requirement for entry into force of the Convention – coverage of 33 per cent of the world gross ton­nage – has already been attained, Antigua and Barbuda’s ratification is an important step towards achieving the second requirement: 30 ratifying countries. It is expected that the additional 12 ratifications will be obtained before the end of 2011, indicating that the MLC, 2006 will enter into force in 2012.

The convention was already ratified by 18 countries/ states, to wit: Liberia (June 7,2006), Marshall Islands (September 25, 2007 ), Ba­hamas (February 11,2008), Panama (February 6, 2009), Norway (Feb­ruary 10, 2009) , Bosnia and Herzegovina (January 18, 2010) , Spain (February 4, 2010), Croatia (February 12, 2010) , Bulgaria (April 12, 2010) , Canada (June 15, 2010), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (November 9, 2010) , Switzerland (February 2, 2011), Gabon (May 12, 2011) Benin (June 13, 2011), and Singapore ( June 15, 2011). Den­mark (June 23, 2011) Latvia (August 12, 2011), Antigua and Barbuda (August 11, 2011).

It is an important new Convention that was adopted by the Interna­tional Labour Conference of the ILO at a maritime session in February 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. It sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work and helps to create conditions of fair competition for ship-owners. It is intended to be globally applicable, easily understandable, readily updatable and uniformly enforced. The MLC , 2006 has been designed to become a global legal instrument that, once it enters into force, will be the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended (SOLAS), the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping, 1978, as amended (STCW) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 73/78 (MARPOL). Between 1920 and 1996, a total of 39 Conventions, 29 Recommendations and one Protocol concerning seafarers have been adopted by the ILO.

The MLC contains a comprehensive set of global standards, based on those that are already found in 68 maritime labor instruments. It modernizes the global standards to: (a) set minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship; (b) address conditions of employment, accommodation, recreation- al facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection; (c) promote compliance by operators and owners of ships by giving governments sufficient flexibility to implement its requirements in a manner best adapted to their individual laws and practices; and (d) strengthen enforcement mechanisms at all levels, including provisions for complaint procedures available to seafarers, ship-owners supervision of conditions on their ships, the flag States’ jurisdiction and control over their ships, and port State inspections of foreign ships.

The Philippines will definitely be one of the major beneficiaries of this convention. The Philippines is considered as the major supplier of maritime labor globally. Per Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) data, there were 330,424 Filipino seafarers deployed abroad in 2009 comprising almost 30 percent of the global maritime labor force. Although the number of deployed Filipino sea- farers has decreased from 2006 (274,497), 2007 (266,553) to 2008 (261,614), the dollar remittances have been constantly increasing from US$1.9B in 2006, US$2.2B in 2007 , US$3B in 2008, US$3.4B in 2009 to US$3.8B in 2010. On the other hand, the Philippines as a flag State has a registered fleet comprising around 1.4% of total world tonnage.

The Philippine Labor Code and several pieces of social legislation contain provisions that are generally consistent with the MLC but there remain some gaps in law and policy with respect to domestic shipping in terms of benefits, not expressly provided under our Labor Code.

As the foremost seafarer-supplying country and a flag State with a registered fleet comprising around 1.4% of total world tonnage, it be- hooves upon Philippine social partners and stakeholders to determine the passage most beneficial to our national interests. The ratification of MLC 2006 by the Philippines would send a strong signal to the global maritime community that the country is quite serious in maintaining its status as the No. 1 supplier of seaborne manpower for the global merchant fleet.