by Douglas B. Stevenson, Esq.
I recently participated in the International Christian Maritime Association’s (ICMA) Western Europe Regional Conference in Bremerhaven, Germany. Fifty port chaplains from the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Brunsbüttel, Cuxhaven, Dunkerque, Hamburg, Le Havre, Rotterdam, Stade, and Zeebrugge attended the conference.
I led two workshops examining the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). The MLC, 2006 is a very important accomplishment in codifying seafarers’ rights law that affects shipowners, flag states, port states, seafarers, and port chaplains. I began the sessions by recounting the ICMA delegation’s contributions to and participation in developing the MLC, 2006 over the course of five years beginning in 2001. (I was head of the ICMA Standing Delegation to the ILO during this period). I then briefed them on the 2014 amendments to the convention, and gave an overview of the Center for Seafarers’ Rights’ experience with the MLC, 2006 since it came into force in 2013. I provided some training on the convention as part of the workshop.
The participants then described their experiences with the MLC, 2006. These discussions were extremely valuable as participants could learn from each other’s experiences and accomplishments, as well as developing a network with a view to assisting each other with MLC, 2006 issues.
The Western European chaplains viewed the MLC, 2006 very positively because it has contributed to improving seafarers’ living and working conditions, and also empowered them in their ministries. For example, they particularly appreciated the convention’s provisions relating to port welfare committees. Ports that have functioning port welfare committees described improvements in fund-raising, higher chaplaincy visibility and stature in the port community, improved networking capabilities with port stakeholders, and better crisis-response capabilities.
Participants also identified areas where the MLC, 2006 might be improved. Of high priority among the improvements suggested was strengthening provisions relating to seafarers’ shore leave, and chaplain’s access to vessels through terminals. While access and shore leave issues are primarily regulated through the ILO’s maritime security regulations, participants thought the MLC, 2006 could be strengthened in these areas.
The comments on the MLC, 2006 that I received from front-line chaplains provided me with useful recommendations that the ICMA delegation can convey to the ILO.