The International Labour Organisation's Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (the "Convention") comes into force on 20 August 2013. It consolidates and updates the existing extensive instruments currently in place.

The Convention, dubbed as the "seafarers' international bill of rights" is seen as having two primary purposes:

1. to bring the system of protection contained in existing labour standards closer to the workers concerned, in a form consistent with the rapidly developing, globalised sector; and
2. to improve the applicability of the system so that shipowners and governments interested in providing decent conditions of work do not have to bear an unequal burden in ensuring protection.

The Convention will apply to every ship of 500GT or more that is engaged on international voyages or operates from a port or between two ports of another Member State. Each ship will need to be certificated in accordance with the Convention.

The Convention does not apply to:

1. ships which navigate exclusively in inland waters or waters within, or closely adjacent to, sheltered waters or areas where port regulations apply;
2. ships engaged in fishing;
3. ships of traditional build such as dhows and junks;
4. warships or naval auxiliaries.

It applies to all commercial yachts and to those private yachts wishing to maintain full certification. Many private yachts will wish to comply as best practice.

The Convention is organised into three main parts:

1. the Articles, which out set out the broad principles and obligations;
2. the Regulations, which set out the more detailed provisions; and
3. the Code (with two parts: Parts A and B).

The Regulations and the standards in the Code are integrated and organised into general areas of concern under five headings:

1. Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship;
2. Conditions of employment;
3. Accommodation, Recreational Facilities, Food and Catering;
4. Health Protection, Medical Care, Welfare and Social Security Protection; and
5. Compliance and Enforcement.

It covers new ground, particularly in the area of occupational safety and health to meet current health concerns, such as the effects of noise and vibration on workers or other workplace risks.

The Convention is intended to achieve more compliance by operators and owners of ships and to strengthen enforcement of standards through mechanisms which operate at all levels. For example, it contains provisions for:

1. complaint procedures available to seafarers to ensure their rights to decent working conditions are protected;
2. shipowners' and shipmasters' supervision of conditions on their ships;
3. flag States' jurisdiction and control over their ships;
4. port State inspections of foreign ships.

By requiring ratifying Members not only to implement the Convention in the national laws but also to document their implementation, the Convention should also enhance the effectiveness of the supervision carried out at the international level. This should assist to reduce any delays related to inspection of ships at foreign ports.

The Convention is overall considered as a fair balance between ensuring labour standards and a good level of regulation on the one hand and the promotion of productivity and competition on the other hand. However, the international super yacht community has been grappling with providing decent crew accommodation without losing a substantial area of guest space.

The Isle of Man has a well established and well respected Ship Registry that has attracted extensive merchant ships and commercial yachts to its register. The Isle of Man Ship Registry is a modern flag registry with a strong emphasis on quality, high standards and efficient service. The Isle of Man Ship Registry has worked in conjunction with the industry to provide guidance to both seafarers and ship owners together with effective assistance with the regulatory requirements of the Convention.

Any Isle of Man entities engaged in employing seafarers will need to ensure they have a proficient and well regulated recruitment system to meet the standards set by the Convention.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.