Yesterday morning the UK Chamber hosted a seminar in the House of Commons, where it called on MPs to maintain pressure on Government to quickly ratify the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC).
The MLC received the requisite 30 ratifications last summer and will enter into force in August 2013. It provides comprehensive rights at work for the world’s 1.2 million seafarers – including over 40,000 UK seafarers – and creates a level playing field for shipowners, protecting them from unfair competition from substandard ships. The MLC has not yet been ratified by the UK.
Leading the discussion, which was chaired by Southampton MP Alan Whitehead, UK Chamber Director-General, Mark Brownrigg, highlighted the serious disadvantages the UK will face until ratification, including UK based seafarers having fewer rights than their international counterparts, UK-registered ships facing delay and detention in foreign ports and our own ports being unable to use their own port state control procedures for 12 months after the UK ratifies.
Explaining the delay, Mark said: “Ironically, internal processes of impact assessments and scrutiny by the government’s Reducing Regulation and the Regulatory Policy Committees are inflexible and actually creating another layer of frustrating red tape.
“The introduction of a one-in-two-out principle, for example, is delaying implementation of important, good regulation that the whole of the industry desires.”
The two leading industry Unions, Nautilus International and RMT also attended the event.
Mark Dickinson, General Secretary of Nautilus, outlined the frustrations felt by both unions and industry over the delay in ratification, adding that for a maritime nation, the UK’s hold up on MLC was “embarrassing” and that the consequences would be long lasting.
Steve Todd, National Secretary of RMT, echoed these sentiments saying it was “unforgiveable” that the UK was now trailing behind on the issue of seafarer working rights.
MPs from across the spectrum of UK parties registered their support for the UK Chamber’s argument and committed to put pressure on Government over the issue, both through formal and informal channels.
Dr Whitehead concluded the session, saying: “Ratifying this convention is vital both for the rights of British seafarers and the competitiveness of British ports. It appears perverse that the Government’s anti-red tape drive is in practice creating more red tape which is hindering this Convention coming into force.
“I’ll be pressing the Government to keep its promise to our seafarers and make sure they get the same rights and protections as their counterparts from other countries.”