Panama Ratifies Maritime Labour Convention

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Ambassador of the Republic of Panama, HE Mr. Juan Alberto Castillero, on Feb. 6 deposited the instrument of ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Panama, the largest flag State in the world, with nearly 25 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet flying its flag, is the fourth major shipping country in the world to ratify the Convention, adopted by the 94th International Labour Conference (Maritime) in Geneva in February 2006.

Panama’s ratification is especially significant because, combined with the ratifications by Liberia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Bahamas (the next three largest States). It means that seafarers working on more than 40 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet will be covered by the decent work requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 when it enters into force.

Panama’s ratification also means that one of the two requirements for entry into force (33 per cent of the world gross tonnage) is more than achieved. Progress in many other countries indicates that the second requirement for entry into force, ratification by at least 30 countries, is expected by 2011.

Sometimes called the “super convention”, the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 saw governments, shipowners and seafarers agree on comprehensive international requirements for seafarers’ working and living conditions that also promote a level playing field for quality shipping in the rapidly growing maritime sector.

As early as 2006, during the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, the Vice-President of Panama and Administrator of the Maritime Authority HE Mr. Rubén Arosemena Valdés had held out the prospect of Panama’s ratification. In 2007 and 2008, two ILO high-level tripartite missions visited Panama and discussed the relevant aspects of the Convention with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, with the Panama Maritime Authority and representatives of the social partners.

In June 2008, HE Mr. Martín Torrijos Espino, President of the Republic of Panama had, as guest of honour to the International Labour Conference, reiterated Panama’s commitment to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. In September 2008, Panama also played a leadership role in an important tripartite meeting of experts to adopt Guidelines for flag State inspection under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. On 6 January 2009, the President of the Republic signed Law No. 2, transposing the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 into national law.

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, sets out a seafarers’ “bill of rights” and is intended to be the “fourth pillar” in the international shipping regulation complementing major maritime Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on environmental protection and ship safety and security. It establishes a strong compliance and enforcement mechanism based on flag State inspection and certification of seafarers’ working and living conditions. This is supported by port State inspection of ships to ensure ongoing compliance between inspections.

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry and help secure universal application and enforcement. It is a comprehensive Convention bringing together and updating 37 existing ILO Conventions and covers the minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, wages, leave, repatriation, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, occupational safety and health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection.

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