ILO Convention under the keel

Protection of the Human Rights of Seamen: Towards Harmonization of Legislation.

Seamen have a high level of special training, but, unfortunately, the state is concerned about them rarely. One of the proofs of neglect of the problems of more than 100 thousand citizens is the lack of control over the implementation of a number of international agreements in the field of protecting the rights of seamen. It does not only make them vulnerable in conflict situations, but also weakens Ukraine’s position on the world’s maritime labor market.  

International system of acts

Despite a large array of norms, Ukraine’s role in the international legal system of protecting the rights of seamen is limited to participation in individual conventions of the International Labor Organization. Moreover, the necessity to implement the provisions of the European Union directives in the field of international maritime and inland water transport only in 2017 was enshrined at the legislative level in the Strategy for the implementation of the provisions of the EU directives in the field of international maritime and inland water transport. This was due to the failure fulfill the previously approved plans to implement the provisions of the acquis communautaire of the EU, specified in Annexes XVII and XXXIII to the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

Among the acts of the ILO in this area are the following:

  • Convention No. 22 “Concerning Seamen’s Articles of Agreement”;
  • Convention No. 55 “Concerning the Liability of the Shipowner in Case of Sickness, Injury or Death of Seamen”;
  • Convention No. 73 “Concerning the Medical Examination of Seafarers”;
  • Convention No. 109 “Concerning Wages, Hours of Work on Board Ship and Manning”;
  • Convention No. 134 “Concerning the Prevention of Occupational Accidents to Seafarers”;

Convention No. 163 “Concerning Seafarers’ Welfare at Sea and in Port”;

  • Convention No. 178 “Concerning the Inspection of Seafarers’ Working and Living Conditions”;
  • Convention No. 179 “Concerning the Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers”;
  • Convention No. 180 “Concerning Seafarers’ Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships”;
  • Recommendation No. 78 “Concerning the Provision to Crews by Shipowners of Bedding, Mess Utensils and Other Articles”;
  • Recommendation No. 153 “Concerning the Protection of Young Seafarers”;
  • Recommendation No. 186 “Concerning the Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers”;
  • Recommendation No. 187 “Concerning Seafarers’ Wages and Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships”, etc.

Thus, one may say that there is a sufficiently developed system of international legal norms, both mandatory and recommendatory, aimed at protecting the work of seamen at the international, regional and national levels. Therefore, the process of ratification by Ukraine of international agreements needs to be intensified.

Basic obligations

Approximately 70 ILO conventions and recommendations have been partially revised and as a result of codification reflected in the ILO The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, which was adopted on February 23, 2006 and came into force on August 20, 2013. Unfortunately, Ukraine has not ratified it until now. Although this document is very important in the system of protection of seamen’s labor rights.

Clear structure of the convention in the form of articles containing the basic principles and basic obligations of the participating states; the rules formulating the rights and obligations of subjects of labor and related relations, as well as a code that contains detailed standards and Guidance on the fulfillment of these rights and obligations indicates an effective mechanism for protecting the rights of seafarers.

The international agreement establishes minimum requirements concerning almost all aspects of the working conditions and residence of seafarers on a ship: minimum age, training, conditions of employment, remuneration, paid annual leave, repatriation, length of time of work and rest, standards of living conditions on board, health care, medical care, etc.

In 2014, important provisions that entered into force in January 2017 supplemented the convention. These are, in particular, the standards А2.5.2 (“Financial security”) and А4.2.2 (“Treatment of contractual claims”). Thus, according to A2.5.2 Standard, each state shall ensure that a financial security system meeting the requirements of this Standard is in place for ships flying its flag. The financial security system may be in a form of a social security scheme or insurance or a national fund or other similar arrangements. In this case, assistance under the financial security should be provided immediately upon request of the seafarer or a representative appointed by him and sufficient to cover unpaid earnings and other payments by the seaman from the shipowner (not exceeding the 4-month debts), all expenses incurred by the seaman, inclusive with the cost of repatriation and urgent needs.

Standards of the Old World

In order to detail the requirements of general international legal instruments for the protection of the rights of seamen, the European Community has adopted separate acts aimed at strengthening the protection of labor relations on ships.

For example, according to Article 2 of the Council of the European Union directive on the minimum safety and health requirements for improved medical treatment on board vessels, dated March 31, 1992, No. 92/29, the State party shall take the measures necessary to ensure that every vessel flying its flag always carries on board medical quality supplies. In addition, this directive requires every vessel with a crew of 15 or more workers and engaged on a voyage of more than three days, has a sick-bay in which medical treatment can be administered under satisfactory material and hygienic conditions.

Such an important aspect of seamen’s labor relations as their professional training is reflected in the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU “On the minimum level of training of seafarers” of 19.11.2008 №2008/106/EU. In accordance with the requirements of the directive, Each Member State shall establish standards of medical fitness for seafarers, in particular regarding sense of vision and hearing, and a valid certificate of proficiency to serve at sea.

Primarily, Ukraine’s international compliance with the labor rights of seafarers by ratifying the 2006 ILO The Maritime Labour Convention will facilitate optimization of the system of legal protection of seafarers. It is also necessary to involve employers, shipowners, intermediaries in the employment of seamen, trade unions, etc., in the development and implementation of effective program provisions aimed at protecting the individual and collective rights of Ukrainian seamen.

Only in such close cooperation, it is possible to provide the highest standards and to implement the protection of Ukrainian citizens employed in the maritime sector. Of course, the leading role in this process must belong to the state itself.

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