The UK Chamber of Shipping has welcomed the Maritime Labour Convention, saying it is “delighted” the rules have now been ratified by the UK Parliament.

“The Maritime Labour Convention is crucial for our industry, creating a level playing field in which standards for mariners are brought into line with those applicable to land-based work, whilst still recognising the unique environment in which seafarers work,” says Mark Brownrigg, director-general.

Although the convention officially came into force around the world last week (August 20th), the UK has only just ratified the regulations.

Under the new rules, a set of unified employment standards will be introduced for those who work at sea. It sets out requirements that will bring working conditions for mariners into line with those who work on land, including minimum levels of health and safety, medical care and living conditions during stays onboard ship.

It also features rules to cover fair pay and benefits, how labour complaints should be handled and regulation for recruiters, meaning it has been referred to as a “bill of rights” for seafarers.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has also welcomed the convention, saying that it will now devote its resources to assisting with implementation to ensure the rules make a difference to seafarers’ lives.

Agreed through the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO), the text was actually passed in 2006 after five years of negotiations between governments, trade unions and ship owners.

Before it could come into effect, the convention needed to be ratified by 30 ILO member states comprising over 33 tonnes of global gross tonnage. But now more than 45 countries have signed up, accounting for three-quarters of all gross tonnage.

Last week, IPS reports that pressure was mounting on the US to ratify the convention, but the Coast Guard is still conducting a review on behalf of the White House to decide whether it should be submitted to the Senate for their consent. President Obama will have to officially sign the convention and then ask the Senate to authorise it before the House can vote.

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