The Convention will cover more than 1.2 million seafarers worldwide
On 20 August the majority of Spanish registered ships will be required to have adopted the measures set out in the ILO Maritime Labour Convention
20thAUGUST 2013
The Convention is a milestone for the regulation of working conditions for seafarers and in ensuring fair competition between shipowners

A brief summary of the Convention

The Convention was approved on 23 February 2006, at the 94th (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference

To come into force the Convention, known as MLC 2006), a double requirement had to be satisfied: the Convention had to be ratified by at least 30 member States of the ILO, which together hold a 33% total share of world gross shipping tonnage.

As of now 53 States have ratified the Convention, with a total of 80% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping.

The Convention is set out in five Titles: 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; and compliance and enforcement.

A Convention:


It is considered to be the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for international shipping. It consolidates and updates 68 international labour standards related to the Maritime sector adopted over the last 80 years


It has been designed to complete the set of conventions that regulate the safety of life at sea; prevention of pollution from Ships, as well as the training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers


It regulates working conditions for seafarers, giving them greater protection in their working rights and duties


Particular care is taken in the definitions contained in the Convention. It defines basic concepts such as “seafarers” and the type of “ship” to which the MLC 2006 will apply


It guarantees protection in a wide range of areas: employment agreements, responsibilities of recruiters of seafarers, work and rest hours, social security as well as health and safety at work


At the same time as it seeks decent working conditions for seafarers, it aims to provide fair competition amongst shipowners




Total number of regulations that it unifies and updates



Total number of States that has ratified the Convention



Ships required to certify


World gross shipping tonnage



  • The Convention arises from a joint consensus of seafarers and shipowners

  • It provides safety and protection for the worker and the ship owner in operations carried out on-board

  • It applies to all ships which are habitually used for commercial activities, regardless of their tonnage or the nature of the travel

  • It provides greater guidance for the ship and the shipowner, as well as the flag country and port state

  • Simplifies and governs the obligatory requirements for all parties involved, both in the sector and the administration

  • Applies to all ships, no matter whether they are from countries that have not ratified the Convention

  • Protection against unfair competition from ships that do not apply the rules: “no more favourable treatment” clause

  • Obligatory certification for ships of 500 GT or over, and at shipowner request for smaller ships

  • Positive effects both for safety at sea and for the protection of the environment

  • Worldwide, uniform enforcement and compliance

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Steps required to comply with the Convention

Ships are required to be certified in accordance with Convention regulations by 20 August

In Spain’s case, although existing labour laws cover a large part of what is required by the Convention, some action is required, both by the Public Administration as well as shipping companies and seafarer recruitment agencies, mainly with regard to documentation.

Cooperation is required between the public administration and the shipping sector, which so far is being carried out “satisfactorily”, according to industry professionals.

The requirement to be certified applies to ships with 500 gross tonnage or over, engaged in international voyages and 500 gross tonnage or over flying the flag of a member state and operating from a port, or between ports, in another country.

Step 1: Inspection

Ship Inspection by the Public Administration, covering 14 illustrative areas subject to certification:

  • Minimu age
  • Medical certificates
  • Seafarer’s qualifications
  • Seafarer’s employment agreements
  • Use of authorised, certified or regulated, private recruitment and placement services
  • Work and rest hours
  • Ship’s facilities
  • Accommodation
  • On board recreation facilities
  • Food and catering
  • Health and safety protection and accident protection
  • Medical care on board
  • On-board complaint procedures
  • Payment of wages

Step 2: Certification

After the inspection the competent authority shall issue the Maritime Labour Certificate and the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance, Part I.

In Spain the competent authority for issuing both Certificates is the Dirección General de la Marina Mercante (General Directorate of Merchant Shipping) subsequent to the issuance of a binding report from the Dirección General de la Inspección de Trabajo y Seguridad Social (General Directorate of the Inspectorate of Work and Social Security) and the Instituto Social de la Marina (Social Marine Institute).

The Certification will be valid for a maximum of 5 years.

Part I of the Declaration sets out the list of areas subject to inspection (that is, the above list of 14 points) and will indicate the national legislation to be followed, as adapted to the scope of the Convention.

Step 3: Part II Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance

The Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance Part II shall be drawn up by the shipowner and shall identify the measures that will be adopted to ensure ongoing compliance with the regulations included in Part I, as well as the measures that will ensure that there is continuous improvement.

This Declaration will be certified by the competent authority.

Step 4: Requirement to carry certification

The ship will carry on board, and in a place visible to the seafarers, a valid Maritime Labour Certificate and valid Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance.

Step 5: Strict compliance to avoid penalties

Failure to comply with the requirements set out, or failure to adopt corrective measures where required after inspection, will lead to penalties.

Where the deficiencies observed constitute a serious violation of seafarer’s rights or represent considerable danger to the health and safety or the protection of seafarers, the boat will be impounded.

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The View of the Experts

SS&D Madrid

“There is no doubt that the majority of ships are in great shape to pass the inspections with flying colours”


“The Convention is an appropriate measure which, although it doesn’t bring in any major new requirements, does increase the amount of paperwork to be done. Here in Madrid we believe we have essentially two functions: firstly to help shipping companies have the necessary documentation to meet the requirements of the new ILO Convention and secondly to coordinate and manage the defence of penalty proceedings arising once the Convention is in force.”

“The systematic work the ILO has done, as set out in the Convention, will lead to an improvement in the working conditions of seafarers at the same time as it gives greater legal security to shipowners through systematic regulation of the requirements to be complied with for those ships that are held to be places of work.”

SS&D Sevilla

“The Convention will bring a widely expected revolution in safety matters, as well as a harmonisation of criteria”


“In Seville, Cadiz, Huelva, as well as Algeciras and other strategic points in the south of Spain, we will be available to provide advice locally and to be immediately available to assist ship owners on-site with documentation and compliance certification, inspections and appeals, as well as dealing with penalty proceedings. When the Convention comes into force port state social controls will acquire an added dimension.”

“The new measures should be considered to be beneficial; we believe this to be the case, though we will see how the Conventions is applied in reality and how the inspections are carried out”

SS&D Bilbao

“The repercussions in the maritime sector will arise from the systematisation of seafarer’s working conditions”


“Given the importance of the Port of Bilbao in the organisation and distribution of Spain’s ports we understand that the Convention will mean an increase in the advice given to shipowners regarding penalty proceedings brought by the authorities under Convention regulations, while continuing to give general legal advice, as we have been doing.”

“The systematisation of seafarer’s working conditions, independent of the criticisms of the final wording of the Convention, will be undeniably positive for the internal controls of the shipowners. The Convention is a timely measure, though it does increase the burden of paperwork, which could perhaps have been reduced. The logical expectation is that the great majority of ships will pass the inspections”

SS&D Valencia

“When building a ship, it’s important to know that it will comply with the Convention”


“In Valencia, where there is a fleet of Spanish-flagged merchant ships which will be subject to the ILO Convention (MLC 2006), we offer our services giving advice and assistance to shipowners and shippers in obtaining the Maritime Labour Certificate and the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance from the Capitanías Marítimas [Maritime Authorities] who work with both the Dirección General de la Inspección de Trabajo (General Directorate of the Inspectorate of Work) and the Instituto Social de la Marina (Social Marine Institute) in the application of the MLC 2006 and which will act in inspections and the penalty proceedings that arise from them.”

“We believe the Convention is sound and will provide legal certainty. It attempts to create a “culture of compliance” which applies to each area. Seafarers, shipowners and captains all have responsibilities and flag countries should oversee that these are discharged. Meeting the Convention requirements is a guarantee against future claims for work place accidents. Ships should be checked by a professional to avoid any future surprises”

Dirección General Marina Mercante

“Spain’s legislation goes further in terms of the rights of the seafarer”


The Convention sets out a minimum level required and replaces previous labour standards Spain has been a signatory to since 1920. That said, the application of the Convention has not been entirely straightforward. Nine of the Convention’s regulations come within the ambit of the Dirección General de la Inspección de Trabajo y Seguridad Social (General Directorate of the Inspectorate of Work and Social Security), four under the Instituto Social de la Marina (Social Marine Institute) and two under the Dirección General de la Marina Mercante (General Directorate of Merchant Shipping).The General Directorate of Merchant Shipping does not treat the concept of a ‘seafarer’ as applying to every individual on-board a vessel. Rather it understands ‘seafarer’ to be those workers who carry out maritime duties, as well as those who do not carry out such duties but do realise their functions on-board and not on land

Inspección de Trabajo y Seguridad Social

“Our training has been specifically updated with the interests of the sector in mind and to improve our inspection work”


There was a highly satisfactory collaboration with other departments during the development and negotiation of this complex Convention. The Work Inspectorate believed it was necessary to provide specific training in collaboration with the General Directorate of Merchant Shipping and the Social Marine Institute for those inspectors carrying out inspections relating to the application of the Convention. For this complex collaborative project the Inspectorate worked closely with the industry and other administrative departments to analyse, in advance, difficulties that could arise during inspections. The aim was to address these before carrying out the inspections, so that the ships could be certified prior to 20 August. For that reason it was decided to run a special inspection campaign to ensure compliance with the relevant requirements of the Convention. The proceedings were therefore limited to these requirements, with the inspections not being full inspections as such

Instituto Social de la Marina

“The main change the Convention provides is the inspection of minimum levels of catering on-board”


The inspection will check whether the food is free, its quantity, quality, variety and how it is adapted to the different cultures and religions of the workers, as well as checking the quantity and quality of the drinking water. No international convention covers this new concept included in the ILO Convention. It’s an important challenge

Asociación de Navieros Españoles

“Implementing the Convention is proving laborious”


In Spain two ministries are involved (Employment and Social Security together with Development) and three general directorates. It should be noted that all have shown a collaborative and resolutive attitude. One of the most complex parts of the Conventions and which has caused the most headaches for the shipowners is how to define the figure of an on-board worker when there are various employers. Additionally the role of crewing agencies has been difficult to fit within the parameters of the Spanish legislation, because it is highly specific to the sector. The shipowners have been in contact with the State Employment Service to ratify or certify this activity. Another interesting point focuses on newly constructed ships. Where the keel is laid after the entrance into force of the Convention, certain strict requirements will apply to the ship regarding accommodation and the minimum size of the cabins

San Simón & Duch

Our office will provide assistance and legal advice to all parties affected by the Convention; from helping shipowners deal with the preparation and processing of the required documentation, to assisting with inspections, reviewing employment contracts and providing legal defence in any eventual penalty proceedings.

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