The new provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) – the seafarers "bill of rights' – have been beginning to bite since they came into effect in August 2013.
The International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) reports that eight ships were detained for breaches of the MLC during its first month of enforcement – three in Canada (the first state to detain a vessel for breaching the MLC), three in Spain, and one each in Denmark and the Russian Federation. Two of the detained ships were flagged in Cyprus, two in Panama, and one each in Liberia, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and Tanzania.
However, a recent case in Great Britain shows the need for close scrutiny of implementation of the convention: a port state control inspection of the Greek-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged George in Ellesmere Port, England found that, although it had MLC certification, it was in a “filthy” condition with 12 deficiencies.
The ship was served with a prohibition order because of rotten food, out-of-date provisions and a cockroach infestation of the galley, as well as the crew accommodation. Port health officers said the poor conditions could lead to "an imminent risk of injury of health to the crew on board due to the significant risk of food contamination posed".
The prohibition order was lifted following cleaning and fumigation work.
ITF inspector Tommy Molloy said it was difficult to understand why the vessel had recently been audited and passed for MLC compliance "when the deficiencies were so apparent". He also pointed to problems with the contracts of employment for the Egyptian and Syrian seafarers on board, which should also have been picked up during MLC certification.