Letter to Minister of Transport

The following letter was sent to the NZ Minister of Transport today.

19 August 2013

Hon. Gerry Brownlee

Minister of Transport

PO Box 18888


 Dear Minister,


On the 1st September last year I wrote to you giving the view of the New Zealand Company of Master Mariners on the above matter. I was more than just disappointed in that the only response I received from you was an unsigned letter written by a Private Secretary advising that my letter had been passed to you for your information.

The Maritime Labour Convention comes into force tomorrow and, as far as I am aware, still unendorsed by New Zealand. The issue raised in my letter is the responsibility the New Zealand Government has for ensuring that both New Zealand seafarers and those on vessels carrying the country’s trade commodities are suitably protected in terms of their moral, social and economic welfare.

The purpose of this communication is to establish from you what has happened in the year following my letter, and more importantly, the reasons behind the Government’s policy, which it would appear to be that this country should not become a signatory to the convention.

I hope that I shall receive the courtesy of a formal reply to this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Captain Kenneth D Watt

Master, New Zealand Company of Master Mariners

And from todays Lloyds List Tuesday 20 August 2013

Shipping is the only major industry with such a comprehensive framework for acceptable standards of employment The MLC’s development is particularly impressive because of the incredible degree of co-operation

ACCORDING to the International Labour Organisation, “decent work is the most widely shared aspiration of people and their families in all countries”.

This is certainly true for the 1.5m seafarers employed by international shipping, about two-thirds of whom come from developing nations.

The ILO MLC enters into force today. To a large extent, this represents a codification of existing good employment practices that already prevail throughout most of the shipping industry.

Moreover, the full impact of enforcement may not be felt for another year, as flag states work to complete the inspection of ships and the issuance of the necessary certification.

The entry into force of the MLC is, nevertheless, a very significant event.

As shipowners get ready for implementation, they might just briefly pause to reflect that the MLC is something in which the shipping industry should take genuine pride.

International shipping is, in fact, the only major industry to have developed such a comprehensive framework covering acceptable standards of employment, which will be applied and enforced at the global level.

The MLC, moreover, is not just an aspirational code of good intentions, such as those adopted for many land-based industries that similarly employ large numbers of people from developing countries.

The ILO MLC will require the implementation of very detailed regulations covering all aspects of employment at sea, which will be subject to a rigorous system of mandatory enforcement through a combination of flag state inspection and port state control.

The MLC’s development is particularly impressive because of the incredible degree of co-operation that was a feature of the extensive negotiations between employers, unions and governments that preceded its adoption by ILO in 2006.

The entry into force of the ILO MLC is actually the culmination of a 15-year project.

The concept of negotiating one single international convention governing seafarers’ employment standards was originally envisaged in the late 1990s by the International Shipping Federation, co-ordinating the world’s national shipowners’  associations, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, representing seafarers’ unions.

ISF and ITF sometimes view labour affairs from very different perspectives. But they were both able to recognise that the establishment of a global level playing field for employment standards was in the best interests of shipowners and seafarers alike.

The MLC is, in fact, the product of the collective work of hundreds, if not thousands, of employers and seafarers’ representatives from around the world. But unlike many previous ILO maritime conventions, its development has also benefited, throughout the process, from the considered input — and thus a real sense of ownership — from those governments that, from today, are responsible for its enforcement.

Such a degree of co-operation throughout an entire international industry, and the willingness to reach agreement on what were sometimes sensitive and controversial issues, is possibly unique. Shipping is very much seen as a trail blazer at the ILO, which has no similar mechanism for developing detailed standards for other industries.

Notwithstanding the work involved for employers who need to get to grips with the new certification procedure, most should hopefully have few difficulties with respect to demonstrating compliance, so long as flag states and port states adopt a sensible approach.

With a few exceptions, such as the need for a proper complaints procedure and financial guarantees to ensure crew repatriation, most of the MLC regulations are derived from existing ILO standards and existing industry best practices. The difference, however, is that the MLC should ensure sound employment practices are now enforced throughout the industry. It should now be far harder for the small minority of potentially sub-standard employers to enjoy an unfair competitive advantage.

As from today, as a result of the entry into force of the ILO MLC, “decent work” for all seafarers is far closer to being a reality than a mere aspiration.


Masamichi Morooka is chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping/International Shipping Federation.

The International Shipping Federation is the identity used by the International Chamber of Shipping when representing maritime employers. ISF negotiated the text of the MLC in the lead-up to the Diplomatic Conference in 2006.

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