The ratification means more than 96 per cent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage is now covered by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), which also applies to most countries that supply workers for the sector. 

📢 The @ilo Maritime Labour Convention reaches 100th ratification!

🙌🏾 Over 96% of the world’s shipping and most of the seafarer labour supplying countries are now covered by this international standard.

— International Labour Organization (@ilo) April 11, 2022

Leading the way 

The ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, described the development as a milestone

He said Oman, a longstanding maritime nation, has shown the way forward for other countries in the region. 

“Indeed, Oman becomes the first member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to join the global efforts to ensure decent work for seafarers and fair competition for shipowners,” he added. 

The Ambassador of Oman to the UN in Geneva, Idris Abdul Rahman Al Khanjari, formally submitted the ratification documents on 29 March. 

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Al Khanjari underscored his country’s commitment to safeguarding the labour rights of those who work on the high seas. 

“Joining the MLC, 2006, is a clear confirmation of the Sultanate of Oman’s longstanding tradition as a prominent maritime nation in the region. This ratification reaffirms the commitment of my country to uphold the provisions of the Convention to achieve decent work for seafarers,” he said. 

Ensuring consistency worldwide 

The MLC brought together a large number of existing labour standards that no longer reflected contemporary working and living conditions, had low ratification levels, or inadequate enforcement and compliance systems. 

Combining them into one Convention makes it easier for countries to regulate and enforce consistent industry norms and standards worldwide, according to the ILO. 

The MLC was adopted in February 2006 and entered into force on 20 August 2013. 

Since then, it has become a worldwide reference for the maritime industry and a pillar of international maritime rules and regulations. 

A seafarer on board a ship at Felixstowe Port in England.


A seafarer on board a ship at Felixstowe Port in England.

Appeal to Governments 

The heads of two organizations that represent seafarers and shipowners, respectively, have also welcomed this latest ratification. 

“As the first Gulf State to adopt the MLC, Oman extends the safeguards of this Convention not only to its own seafarers, but also to those who call into its ports and navigate through its strategically important waters,” said Stephen Cotton General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). 

The Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Guy Platten, stated it is now more vital than ever for more Governments to ratify the Convention. 

“Reaching 100 signatories is an important milestone. As we saw throughout the pandemic and the crew change crisis, governments who have ratified the Convention must stand by their words and take action to protect seafarers’ rights,” he said. 

COVID-19 caused hundreds of thousands of seafarers to be effectively stranded at sea because they were unable to disembark from ships, including to repatriate at the end of their tours of duty, thus putting the safety and future of shipping at risk. 

Ukraine war impact 

The war in Ukraine is also having an impact on the high seas, according to the ILO and sister UN agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

Currently, more than 100 trading vessels are unable to leave ports there, and in nearby waters, they said in a statement issued on Friday.  

As many as 1,000 seafarers are trapped, including in the besieged city of Mariupol, and on ships in the Sea of Azov. 

Mr. Ryder and the IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, have called for urgent action. 

Vital supplies dwindling 

They have written to the heads of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR; the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières, urging them to assist in the reprovisioning of the ships concerned with the vital supplies needed by personnel on board. 

“As well as the dangers arising from bombardment, many of the ships concerned now lack food, fuel, fresh water and other vital supplies.  The situation of the seafarers from many countries is becoming increasingly untenable as a result, presenting grave risks to their health and well-being,” they said. 

Their joint letter follows urgent communications about the situation sent by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). 

The ILO, IMO and these partners are working together to provide the three relief agencies with information that may assist them.