Friday 24 September 2004 (ILO/04/43)
GENEVA (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) today took a significant step toward the creation of a major new international labour standard that provides a "Seafarers' Bill of Rights" for some 1.2 million maritime workers by consolidating a wide range of maritime standards adopted since the 1920's.
The Preparatory Technical Maritime Conference was attended by 551 delegates representing governments, shipowners and seafarers from 88 countries who ended this Friday two weeks of intense discussions on the new labour standard. The new draft Convention is to be presented for adoption by the Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference by the beginning of 2006.
The new convention has been defined as "an ambitious instrument" unprecedented in the ILO in its scope and approach, since it aims to consolidate key principles and rights and standards found in over 60 existing Conventions and Recommendations developed during the last 80 years.
"We have a balanced project", said the president of the Preparatory Technical Conference, Jean-Marc Schindler, government delegate of France. "This is in the interest of all parties concerned. On the one side, the life of seafarers will improve. On the other, shipowners and governments will see the exercise of their responsibilities facilitated."
The draft Convention, over 100 pages in length, addresses key issues such as minimum standards for employment; working conditions; repatriation, entitlements and leave; standards for onboard working and living accommodation; social protection and seafarers' welfare.
"The draft Convention seeks to secure decent working conditions for all seafarers and addresses almost all aspects of a seafarer's working life", says Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO department that promotes the new instrument. "A very large number of difficult and important issues were successfully resolved during the Preparatory Conference."
However, some specific areas of concern to governments, shipowners and seafarers remain unresolved. "There will be ongoing efforts in the follow up to this Preparatory Conference to address the pending issues", explained Ms. Doumbia-Henry.
Countries are expected to get ready to ratify and implement the new Convention after its formal adoption, since one of the goals of the consolidated Convention is its early entry into force.
The new Convention will not call into question the legal status or substance of existing maritime labour instruments, but rather provide more consistency and clarity, more rapid adaptability and general applicability.
The process for a new major standard began in 2001 when the Joint Maritime Commission (JMC) that includes shipowner and seafarer representatives as well as tripartite participation from the ILO's Governing Body approved a "Geneva Accord" concerning the review of maritime labour standards, which was later accepted by the Governing Body of the ILO. The Accord calls for "an international regulatory response of an appropriate kind - global standards applicable to the entire industry".
It also noted that the shipping industry, that moves nearly 90 per cent of the world's trade, has been considered "the world's first genuinely global industry".