After the summer the Swedish Transport Agency will start MLC certification of Swedish ships. According to senior inspector Jan Borgman most shipowners already meet the requirements, but there is a need for more structuring and documentation for them to be approved.
In the spring, Sweden ratified the MLC (Maritime Labour Convention). The Convention will enter into force one year after 30 countries with 33 % of world tonnage have adopted it, and now only three countries remain before the quota is met. Certification of Swedish vessels is managed by the Swedish Transport Agency.
“Some shipping companies have already contacted us with questions and we expect to start the process in earnest after the holidays. Swedish shipowners already comply with most of what the Convention requires through national legislation, but there will still be more work than most people think in terms of structuring and documentation,” says Jan Borgman.
The MLC, also known as the seafarers’ bill of rights, is a compilation of 37 existing conventions and about as many recommendations. It governs issues such as the work environment, social conditions and employment conditions, and is there to strengthen onboard employees’ rights. When the Convention enters into force, every ship in international traffic must have an MLC certificate to continue in operations. The certificate must be renewed every five years with an intermediate inspection.
”Our inspectors have been given training in this. The emphasis has been on seafarers’ fundamental rights, with a decent work environment and conditions. I usually tell them to take another attitude than we usually have during inspections. This is about soft values and humanitarian rights,” says Jan Borgman.
A boost for Swedish ships
According to Jan Borgman, the shipping companies whose ships follow systematic work environment management have already made good progress in the area. But there other things on the list, as well.
”For example, you must be able to show that seafarers employed were offered an opportunity to discuss the terms in their employment contract before they signed. In addition, the MLC requires transparency and that port states around the world check documentation, which will require a lot of translation. If you have temporary employees, the work environment law must be in English on the ship.”
Jan Borgman says he expects that all Swedish ships will be certified and ready by the day the Convention comes into force. However, he is not so sure that all flag states will succeed in meeting the requirements.
”It is the foreign flags which will have problems, since they ignore social rights and the work environment in order to gain better competition conditions. Swedish shipowners will only benefit from the Convention.”
But he believes that the work environment on Swedish ships will also get a boost.
“Our AFSAR [working environment regulations] are under Swedish legislation and have not been given the importance they deserve in all situations. Now that we will have an international certificate and foreign port states to inspect the work environment, there will be more focus on these aspects,” says Jan Borgman.