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THE INTERNATIONAL Labour Organization is calling for stronger action in preventing discrimination, physical abuse and mental abuse at sea.

The ILO’s Special Tripartite Committee said flag states, port states, labour supplying states, shipping companies and seafarers all have a responsibility to ensure vessels are safe working environments where seafarers can live without fear of discrimination and abuse.

“Given the global nature of shipping, it is crucial that seafarers receive such protection,” officers of the Special Tripartite Committee (STC) of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 said in a statement.

The STC noted the existing frameworks which should allow for a safe place of work for all seafarers, such as the MLC 2006.

Other frameworks such as the Violence and Harassment Convention 2019, the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958 and fundamental principles of other international labour standards also apply to the seafaring workforce.

“The MLC, 2006 is designed to secure the widest possible acceptability among governments, shipowners and seafarers committed to the principles of decent work,” the committee said.

“The application of the MLC, 2006 is overseen by the ILO, which has the core mandate to promote decent conditions of work, and its provisions need to be enforced.”

The STC highlighted regulation 4.3, paragraph 1 of the MLC 2006, which states “each member shall ensure that seafarers on ships that fly its flag are provided with occupational health protection and live, work and train on board ship in a safe and hygienic environment”.

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The responsibilities of flag states were a focal point of the ILO’s message to the industry. The STC emphasised their obligations around labour conditions, crewing and social matters on ships that fly their flags under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Members which ratify the MLC, 2006 have undertaken to ensure that the seafarers’ employment and social rights set out in Article IV are fully implemented in accordance with the requirements of the Convention,” STC officers said.

They also noted member states are required to ensure that every seafarer has the right to a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards.

“This includes the obligation for members to provide seafarers with an accessible confidential complaint and reporting procedure to allow them to report any breaches of their fundamental rights set out in Article III, in accordance with Article V (Implementation and Enforcement Responsibilities) and the relevant provisions of the MLC, 2006.”

STC also called on ILO members to take into account the latest version of the Guidance on eliminating shipboard harassment and bullying jointly published by the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

In December 2024, the MLC 2006 will be updated to contain eight new amendments, agreed on this year, to improve living and working conditions at sea.

At the time the proposed amendments were accepted, the STC also adopted a number of resolutions relating to bullying and harassment of seafarers, encompassing sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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