MLC 2006 is an international convention prepared by the ILO with the purpose of updating and embodying the ILO conventions on the working and living conditions of seafarers, defining the working and living conditions of seafarers onboard a ship and promoting their training level and unifying the legal framework on their rights. It was adopted in the 94th ILC Session held in Geneva in February 2006 with proactive efforts of ITWF.

The Convention aims to become, upon taking effect, the fourth fundamental convention supplementing SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL, and the technical conventions of IMO which have been prepared in connection with the maritime quality and standards to govern the international regime. The purpose of MLC 2006 is defined by ILO in general terms as "quality and safe ship management to minimize problems at harbors and consequential delays, introduce unified rules on employment rights of seafarers and minimum working and living conditions on board a ship and provide a level playing field for ship owners to help ensure fair competition and to marginalize substandard operations".

The Convention took effect on 08/20/2003 upon realization of the validity conditions and adopted by 54 states as of November 2013. Not being a party to the Convention yet, Turkey has started preparations and efforts to evaluate this issue through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime and Communication.


MLC 2006 applies to all ships ordinarily engaged in commercial activities other than ships engaged in fishing or in similar pursuits and ships of traditional build as well as warships. Provisions of the Convention apply to all seafarers employed in ships covered by the Convention. Ships over 500 GT and engaged in international voyages are subject to certification. On the other hand, ships not subject to certification are to be officially inspected. For the purpose of the Convention, ship owner means the owner of the ship or another organization or person, such as the manager, agent or bareboat charterer, who has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the owner under the Convention.


The Convention comprises a preamble defining its basic structure and 16 Articles and the regulations and code section. The articles relate mainly to the fundamental rights, principles and definitions and the regulations include the rules and supplementary regulations. The code section defines how the requirements should be implemented in two parts: Part (A) contains the mandatory rules whereas Part (B) provides guidance as to correct interpretation of the obligatory standards and regulations defined in Part (A) which is not mandatory. Five main headings defining the minimum standards on the rights and working conditions of seafarers are the minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship; conditions of employment; accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering; health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection; and compliance and enforcement.


Issuance of certificates: MLC 2006 requires all ships of 500 GT and above and engaged in international voyages to carry and maintain the Maritime Labor Certificate-MLC and Declaration of Maritime Labor Convention-DMLC Part-1 and Part-2. The MLC certifies that the working and living conditions on board the ship are inspected and the requirements of MLC 2006 are met. The MLC must be attached DMLC, the certificate of compliance statement to MLC 2006. During the validity of DMLC, national laws of the flag states and the ship owner of the ship carrying the flag of a member state undertake to meet the requirements of and to comply with the standards specified under the Convention. All states ratifying MLC 2006 are obliged to issue these certificates for their ships. Ships of less than 500 GT are not obliged to carry and maintain any certificate but shall be subject to inspection for no more than 3 years. States which have not ratified MLC 2006 yet (like Turkey) are not subject to such an obligation; however, all Turkish flag ships must ensure compliance with the standards of the Convention to the maximum extent and adapt their seafarers' employment agreements to the provisions of MLC 2006 since any Turkish ship to call at a port of a state that has ratified the Convention shall be subject to a detailed PSC (Port State Control) inspection, which is a time-wasting process.

Seafarers' right to complain during an inspection on board a ship: As a mandatory clause, a seafarer is entitled to complain for non-compliance with MLC 2006 during an inspection on board a ship. Any complaint by a seafarer regarding payment of wages, working conditions, insurance, etc. to the officials at the port of a member state may result with an inspection on board the ship by the port authorities. In terms of cargo owners and charterers: Cargo owners and charterers may request MLC certificates be attached to charter parties.

Generally in terms of the seafarers' rights: Seafarers' employment agreement signed by both the seafarer and the ship owner or a representative of the ship owner; providing them with decent working and living conditions on board the ship; seafarer's wage paid fully and in accordance with the employment agreement or the collective labor agreement in force, if any; maximum hours of work not exceeding 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period; repatriation of seafarers in the event of illness or injury or shipwreck, insolvency, sale of the ship or any other similar reason and the repatriation costs to be borne by the ship owner; special conditions of accommodation and recreational facilities including minimum room sizes, adequate heating, ventilation, sanitary facilities, lighting and hospital accommodation; quick access to health services both on board and on shore; advice to conclude collective labor agreement; social security protection for seafarers. Nine branches are defined in MLC 2006 in connection with social security of seafarers namely medical care, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, old-age benefit, employment injury benefit, family benefit, maternity benefit, invalidity benefit and survivors' benefit. The protection to be provided shall include at least three of the nine branches listed above and shall be no less favorable than that enjoyed by shore workers resident in their territory. The protection to be provided mandatorily should at least include the branches of medical care, sickness benefit and employment injury benefit. The flag state should follow-up whether the ships that fly its flag fulfil their social security and insurance obligations regarding the seafarers on board the ship.


As per the Convention, a ship flying the flag of a state which has not ratified the Convention after its taking effect and calling at the port of a ratifying state shall be inspected by the port authorities of that state in terms of its compliance with the requirements of the Convention and in case of material deficiencies, the ship may be retained from voyage until such deficiencies are remedied. This situation entails the risk of losing competitiveness of our mercantile marine fleet. Therefore, this issue should be taken seriously in order to maintain the prestige of Turkey in international maritime circles considering that Turkey has switched from the Black List of Paris MoU to the White List at the 2006-2008 period. Furthermore, being the party to international conventions that aim improved quality, safety and employment conditions of seafarers on board a ship and fulfilling the provisions thereof is the only way to become a prosperous actor in the ever-globalizing maritime sector. Therefore, the technical infrastructure necessary for review and evaluation of the provisions of the Convention is a must for our country.

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.