As is generally known, the Maritime Labour Convention (ILO – MLC, 2006) is one of the most important cornerstones of national and international maritime labour law. More specifically, the Convention – which came into force on 20 August 2012 and was transposed in Italy by Law No. 113 of 23 September 2013 – embodies an organic system of requirements and minimum standards intended to afford adequate protection to seafarers at global level. The scope of the Convention is, however, not limited to establishing a common set of rules for seafarers but also encompasses a complex system of supervisory mechanisms and sanctions allowing the system to be particularly effective.
One of the fundamental mechanisms of the supervisory system provided for by the Convention, consists of the principle that the flag State is directly responsible for ensuring that the working and safety conditions of seafarers on board ships flying its flag be in compliance with the standards set out in the Convention.
To this end, a system of complex inspections and checks is provided, supplemented by a system of certificates attesting to the conditions actually existing on board. Such certification primarily includes a "maritime labour certificate" and a "declaration of maritime labour compliance". Both documents are required to be carried on board a ship and attest – until proven otherwise – that the ship was duly inspected by the flag State and, in case of a positive outcome of the inspection, that the working and living conditions of the seafarers on board meet the basic requirements.
Decree No. 1 of 8 January 2019 issued by the Directorate General for the Supervision of Port Authorities, Port Infrastructure, Maritime Transport and Inland Waterways introduced some changes to the forms used by Italian authorities in their inspections on board ships flying the Italian flag:
- as concerns the "maritime labour certificate", the required form is the one enclosed as Annex 2 to the Managerial Decree (repealing and superseding the former one published as Annex 1 to circular letter No. 30, series XIII, Title "Seafarers", of 14 November 2014);
- as concerns the "declaration of maritime labour compliance", the form enclosed as Annex 1 to the Decree has replaced the former one (published as Annex 1 to circular letter No. 23, series XIII, Title "Seafarers", of 1 August 2013).
It should be recalled that the "maritime labour certificate" is the document that certifies the working and living conditions on board an inspected ship and gives account of the measures taken by the shipowner to ensure (current and future) compliance with national laws and regulations. The certificate shall be issued following an inspection of the competent authority of the flag State (or any recognised organization duly authorised to carry out inspection) for a five years' period of validity, provided that all intermediate inspections are successfully completed.
The "declaration of maritime labour compliance", complementing the maritime labour certificate, identifies the national requirements for enforcement of the Convention as to seafarers' working and living conditions and the measures adopted by the shipowner to ensure compliance with the requirements on the ship concerned. Its Part I shall be drawn up by competent inspecting authorities; its Part II shall be drawn up by the shipowner and constantly updated.
Although said documents are in continuation with the previous instruments, there are some novelties in the forms introduced by the Decree. The changes are primarily aimed at bringing the forms in line with the amendments made to the Maritime Labour Convention, respectively, in 2014 and in 2016. Hence, express reference is now made in the forms to the financial security systems aimed at assisting seafarers in the event of their abandonment-repatriation or related to shipowners' failure to provide compensation for contractual claims for death or long-term disability of seafarers due to occupational injury, illness or hazard.
A further novelty introduced by Decree No. 1 of 8 January 2019 is the updating of the guidelines on inspections concerning Seafarer Recruitment and Placement Agencies (Annex 4 to the Decree) and of the form "Inspection Report", issued for certifying compliance by such Agencies (Annex 3 to the Decree).
As in the case of the certification of working and living conditions on board ships, the States who ratified the Convention are also required to meet certain basic conditions concerning recruitment and placement of seafarers as well as social security coverage for seafarers that are nationals, residents or otherwise domiciled in the national territory. The system of inspections and supervisory mechanisms (as well as the legal proceedings in case of non-compliance) provided for to this end involves using the instruments amended as a result of the Decree.
Particularly interesting to market operators is the "Inspection Report" form, including a sort of checklist to be used by competent authorities during inspections to verify compliance with the Convention requirements.
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.