Shipping and the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 FAQs – February 2018

  • Published: 9th February 2018
  • Category: Briefings
  • Committees: Offshore Panel, Employment


What is the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006?

Governed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the MLC 2006 is an international treaty setting minimum standards for seafarers’ living and working conditions. The MLC 2006 applies to seafarers of all nationalities on all ships. It entered into force on 20 August 2013. The UK Government ratified the MLC 2006 on 7 August 2013. So far, 84 countries have ratified the MLC 2006 covering 91% of world shipping fleet’s gross tonnage.

What does the MLC 2006 cover?

The MLC 2006 is set out in various parts, and covers issues such as 

  • Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
  • Conditions of employment
  • Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering
  • Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection
  • Compliance and enforcement

How do ship owners/operators show that they comply with MLC requirements to Port State Control?

They hold key documents such as 

  • Maritime Labour Certificate
  • Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance
  • Seafarer Employment Agreements
  • On-board complaint procedures
  • International Safety Management (ISM) Code documentation detailing items such as the Minimum Safe Manning Document
  • Certificates demonstrating evidence of financial security for the repatriation of seafarers and shipowners' liability for sickness, injury and death (e.g.  P&I Club Certificate of Entry)

Documentation should be clear and easy to follow. Facilitating Port State inspectors to visit shore offices eases compliance, as well as providing facilities on-board for crew members to be interviewed and having effective on-board complaint procedures.

What is the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC)?

The DMLC is set out in two parts.

  • Part I is completed by the ship’s Flag State. It sets out national laws and any exceptions/substantial equivalents.
  • Part II is completed by the shipowner. It sets out procedures for ensuring ongoing compliance and continuous improvement.

The DMLC can refer to the shipping company’s safety management system (SMS).

How does the Flag State of the ship exercise its duties?

When selecting a Flag State which has ratified the MLC 2006, the ship operator/owner will need to undertake gap analysis and rectify any MLC requirement which is not fulfilled. The ship operator/owner then completes Part II of the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC), based on contents and requirements set out in Part I of the DMLC. The ship operator/owner may apply for substantial equivalents/exceptions as allowed for by the ratifying Flag State. Once the Flag State is satisfied that all the requirements have been met, it will then issue the Maritime Labour Certificate and DMLC to confirm compliance.

When conducting inspections, the Flag State must inspect the items listed on DMLC, and is able to inspect for any other requirement.

The Maritime Labour Certificate is valid for a maximum of 5 years, and there will typically be intermediate inspections 2 to 3 years after the certificate is issued.

How does Port State Control exercise its duties?

Port State Control can conduct a detailed inspection limited to the items listed on the DMLC. They can also inspect if there is a complaint made by the seafarer, but this is limited to matters within scope of complaint. Detention allowed where there are clear hazards to safety, health or security, or serious/repeated breach of requirements of the MLC 2006, including seafarers’ rights.

If a ship enters into a Port State which has ratified the MLC 2006, but the ship is not flying the flag of a ratifying State, the Port State is entitled to treat that ship as if it were obligated to comply with the MLC 2006 as interpreted by the Port State – known as the “no more favourable treatment” principle.

What are the MLC 2006 requirements for seafarers’ conditions of employment?

The conditions of employment must be stipulated under written agreement, signed by seafarer and shipowner or shipowner’s representative. It will detail arrangements such as 

  • the ship operator/owner’s name and address (which will be the point of contact for complaints)
  • the capacity in which seafarer will work
  • the amount of wages and paid annual leave
  • notice period
  • benefits provided by shipowner
  • repatriation arrangements

There are specified MLC 2006 requirements about the arrangements, such as the payment of wages (with more much limited stipulations regarding the precise amounts) and the hours of work and rest.

How do seafarers on board raise complaints about MLC compliance?

Ship operators/owners must establish and maintain on board complaints procedures which are readily accessible to seafarers. The procedures must

  • be fair, effective and expeditious
  • seek resolution at lowest level
  • provide right to complain directly to the master of the ship
  • provide for a named advisor

Victimisation is prohibited.


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