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Maritime industry can improve employment prospects

BARBADOS (ILO News) Faced with a global shortage of seafarers in the
shipping industry, Latin American and Caribbean countries can take
advantage of maritime career opportunities to improve the employment
prospects of their people.

Strategic investment in the training of seafarers was one of the
recommendations made at the International Labour Organization’s
Hemispheric Conference on the Rapid and Widespread Ratification and
Effective Implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC
2006), held on 7-10 September 2009 in Barbados.

In the midst of the economic downturn and high unemployment rates, this
presents a viable option for young people entering the job market. This
is one of the goals of the “Go to Sea Campaign” launched by the
International Maritime Organization with the support of the
International Labour Organization.

The Latin American and Caribbean region is already home to two of the
world’s largest flag States – Panama and The Bahamas, accounting for
approximately 10,500 registered ships. These two flag States have
already ratified the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. Other countries
such as Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bermuda, Chile and St.
Vincent and the Grenadines are also important flag States, accounting
for a significant percentage of the world’s merchant fleet and
providing many potential job opportunities.

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, will serve as a comprehensive and
enforceable “bill of rights” for seafarers and provide a level
playing field for shipowners, once it enters into force and is
implemented by ILO member States by incorporating the Convention into
their national law.

With this new “Super Convention,” young people entering the
industry can be assured of decent work because it provides a benchmark
for minimum working and living conditions aboard ships, making the
industry more attractive to job seekers.

With English as the mother tongue of most island countries of the
Caribbean and the range of technical positions available at sea, from
engineers to ship officers, the region is well placed to respond to the
future demands for well-trained seafarers.

In his opening address at the Hemispheric Conference, Senator the
Honourable Arni Walters, Minister of State, Ministry of Labour and
Immigration, Barbados, highlighted the benefits of the Convention.

“The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, establishes comprehensive
minimum requirements for almost all aspects of working conditions for
seafarers including conditions of employment, hours of work, rest
periods, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering,
safety and health facilities and protection, medical care, welfare
facilities and social security protection. It combines employment rights
and principles with specific labour standards and detailed guidance as
to how to implement these international labour standards at the national
level,” said Senator Walters.

“Governments and shipowners committed to establishing decent working
and living conditions for seafarers will have a level playing field with
strong protection against unfair competition from substandard ships,”
according to Senator Walters.

Colin Young, Regional Maritime Adviser (Caribbean), International
Maritime Organization (IMO), pointed out that “the Convention takes
its rightful place as the “fourth pillar” of the international
regulatory regime for quality shipping, being bracketed in this respect
with three of the most important IMO Conventions namely, the
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea; the
International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and
Watchkeeping for Seafarers; and the International Convention for the
Prevention of Pollution from ships.

Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards
Department, ILO, Geneva, reiterated that “the MLC 2006 was expressly
designed to build upon the existing maritime regime for enforcing IMO
Conventions through port State control. In addition to flag State
inspection and certification obligations, the Convention will strengthen
the power of port state control officers to detain ships on the grounds
of unsatisfactory working and living conditions for their crews. Under
its provisions, every ship must carry on board, for the first time, a
Maritime Labour Certificate, and a Declaration of Maritime Labour
Compliance to prove that the ship complies with the standards contained
in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.”

In addition to training for seafarers, the ILO Hemispheric Conference
in Barbados also highlighted measures that would be needed to begin the
process of ratification and implementation. Participants discussed the
need to conduct comprehensive legislative reviews to identify gaps in
national legislation and take measures to address them for compliance
with the MLC, 2006. They also noted the importance of engaging in
national tripartite consultations on the Convention as well as
undertaking training for both flag State inspectors and port State
control officers.

The key role of regional cooperation was emphasized as an important
means of supporting action among member states, including on training of
seafarers. ILO’s technical assistance to support the countries in the
region to ratify and implement the Convention was highlighted.

Representatives of governments, including Ministries of Labour, Port
Authorities and Maritime Administrations, employers’ organizations
and trade unions of Canada and countries of Latin American and Caribbean
countries attended the four-day ILO Hemispheric Conference.

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