The Government of Belgium deposited with the International Labor Office the instrument of ratification of the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) on 20 August 2013, a highly symbolic day marking the entry into force of the Convention.
Belgium becomes the 46th ILO Member State and the 19th European Union member to have ratified this historic agreement which constitutes the fourth pillar of the international maritime legal regime, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and providing decent working and living conditions for seafarers as well as conditions of fair competition for shipowners.
The Belgian flag merchant fleet has grown considerably, following the reform of the Belgian registry in 2004, and currently has 235 merchant ships with a gross tonnage of about 4.5 million or 0.42% of the world gross tonnage of ships.
The port of Antwerp, fifteenth largest port in the world, the second largest European port and the first chemical port in Europe holds a strategic position in the northern range and has the largest port area of the world. Maritime platform of primary importance, the port of Antwerp has benefitted, over the past ten years, from significant investments in its port capacity that increased its influence and attractiveness while incorporating high environmental standards for sustainable development. These efforts have been acknowledged by several awards.
Belgium was already bound by 15 ILO maritime Conventions. In ratifying the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006), Belgium reaffirms its willingness to commit to a level playing field in the maritime sector and promote a comprehensive set of rights and protection for seafarers.
In transmitting the instrument of ratification, “Belgium was pleased to contribute to the improvement of living and working conditions for seafarers. This Convention will also ensure fair competition for all ship owners flying the flag of Member States that have ratified it. Belgium will continue its active policy of supporting the objectives of the International Labor Organization and its standard-setting activities.”
In receiving the instrument of ratification of the MLC, 2006 by Belgium, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder stated, "As we celebrate today the entry into force the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, I am particularly pleased to welcome Belgium among the maritime nations that have ratified this historic agreement. With this ratification, Belgium becomes part of the community strategy defined by the European Union for the development of maritime transport in the area, while promoting the development of better working conditions on ships. Belgium has joined the eighteen European countries that have already expressed their commitment to the principles of the MLC, 2006, and their desire to create a regulatory framework for maritime employment. I am certain that the ILO may count on the support of Belgium for the promotion and effective implementation of the MLC, 2006 in the coming years. "
The MLC, 2006 came into force August 20, 2013 for the first 30 signatory countries (the 30 countries whose ratification has been registered no later than 20 August 2012). For countries that registered their ratification after August 20, 2012, the MLC, 2006 will enter into force 12 months after ratification. For the Convention to enter into force, ratification was required by at least 30 ILO Member States representing at least 33% of the world’s gross tonnage of ships.