Since this body met last year, we are proud to report several countries have ratified the Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention (Revised) (No. 185) – also known as ILO 185. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of them.
Nor has the U.S. ratified the Consolidated Maritime Labor Congress (MLC), despite the fact that the Obama Administration placed both issues on the fast track for approval prior to last year’s gathering. However, as anyone familiar with the rulemaking process in the international maritime industry can attest, fast track can be slower than a fully laden tramp steamer in high seas facing a head wind.
The good news is Canada has ratified both accords.
ILO 185 is considered to be of great importance to mariners who still face difficulties going ashore without visas. It calls for nations to use state-of-the-art technology to verify the identity of mariners documented by the countries. Such documents would be audited every five years. They would eliminate the need for visas when taking shore leave for a majority of seafarers.
The MTD and its affiliates have been working with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to seek ratification of ILO 185. All believe that such a technologically advanced document would provide greater security for ports while allowing mariners to come ashore when vessels are tied up. (The ITF is a London-based confederation of nearly 700 transportation-related unions from 153 countries. Several MTD affiliates are members.)
ITF Seafarers’ Section Chairman David Heindel, who also severs as secretary-treasurer for the Seafarers Union, noted: “This convention is important to all mariners, not just U.S. mariners. When our seafarers go abroad, it’s critical that U.S. seafarers have an ILO 185 compliant document. A strong case for the need of the U.S. to ratify ILO 185 is the recent restriction while visiting the port of Sao Francisco do Sul, Brazil. The crew of the M/V Maj. Bernard F. Fisher was informed that because of a legal issue, the mariners would be forced to stay on the ship for nearly two weeks. The Brazilian government has a new policy that doesn’t allow foreign mariners to come ashore unless they have proper visas. Certain visas are waived if the ship is registered in a country that is a signatory to the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention. Just as important when seafarers of other nations sail to our shores, we should not further complicate their profession by restricting their ability to go ashore. To that end, America should ratify this important convention immediately.”
With regard to the MLC, the ITF has dubbed this accord as a “bill of rights for seafarers.” The International Labor Organization announced its support in 2006.
The MLC includes an employment agreement between the mariner and the shipowner for guaranteed shipboard conditions, monthly pay in full, a limit on hours worked during a 24-hour period as well as a seven-day duration, medical care and other concerns.
The MLC is designed to benefit both the mariner and the shipowner. It also protects traditional maritime countries from the abuses of nations that permit substandard shipping. Despite the fact that U.S.-flag vessels already comply with the MLC obligations, the country still hasn’t ratified the convention.
Once again, the MTD and its affiliates call upon the United State government to ratify ILO 185 and the MLC because all mariners deserve safer and better working conditions.