Panama worst MLC performing flag state

Sep 11 2015

The ITF has revealed its experience of the Maritime Labour Convention’s second year in operation at the International Shipping Conference held with London Shipping Week.

Speaking at the conference, maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith said:“The MLC embodies the hopes and aspirations of everyone in this room and beyond who is involved in shipping. It is the best and brightest tool for seafarers’ rights. That is why we all are so closely monitoring its effect and progress.

“Since its entry into force the ITF’s 150 inspectors worldwide have been reporting MLC-related problems they’ve encountered. In 2014, our inspectors carried out 7,488 ship visits. Some 36% (2,755 vessels) were found to have MLC-related problems. This is a 4% increase (371 more vessels) compared to the first year of the convention’s entry into force. The ITF had expected that the increase in flag states to which the convention applies would have resulted in an improvement in the standards of living and working conditions for seafarers on board their vessels, but based on the number of problems received, this unfortunately does not seem to be the case.

“An optimistic explanation for the increase might be that the convention provides mechanisms that make it easier for seafarers to make complaints. If this is the case, then we can only speculate how many problems went unaddressed prior to the entry into force. Either way, there can be no room for complacency,”she stressed.

The ITF’s survey was based on the real life experiences of seafarers gathered by the its inspectors. It covered problems found on vessels flying all flags and did not exclude those for which the convention was not in force.

It found that:

* The number of reports of MLC non-compliance had increased in year two of the MLC being in force, both in numbers and as a percentage of inspections.

   * The flag with the highest number of reported problems was Panama.

   * The flag with the highest percentage of problematic inspections was St Kitts & Nevis.

   * The most frequently reported problems related to unpaid wages; over the first two years during which the MLC has been in force some $89 mill has been recovered by ITF inspectors.

   *The payment of wages below ILO minima was also a significant issue.

The number of inspections undertaken in the second year increased slightly by 2%. In 2013/2014 there were 146 inspectors and contacts, as of 19th August, 2015 there were 153.

Of the vessels inspected, 36% (2,755) were found to have MLC related problems, up by 4% (371 vessels) on Year 1 when 32% of vessels had problems.

This is not very encouraging given that the MLC is now in force for double the number of states, Smith said. On entry into force on 20th August, 2013, 30 countries had acceded to the MLC regime, as of 20th August 2015, the convention was in force for 60 of the 65 countries that have now ratified it.

There was no change in the ranking of the top eight flags associated with the most problems on board their vessels, Panama led the list with 569 (510 in Year 1), followed by Malta with 245 (229), Liberia with 242 (233), Antigua & Barbuda with 241 (188), Marshall Islands with 192 (155), Bahamas with 123 (91), Cyprus with 89 (78) and Hong Kong with 80 (72).

However, Russia dropped to 12th place, whilst Belize moved up to 9th place with 71 (66) and Singapore to 10th place with 67 (64).

Again this indicated a failure to improve standards and even a trend in the wrong direction. Of the 10 worst flag states in terms of numbers of vessels with MLC related problems, all but Hong Kong had ratified the MLC, Smith said.


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