MLC entered into force in Belgium on 21 August 2014

In our previous newsflash about the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) we stated that the Belgian ratification process was delayed. The reason for this was the necessary approval by all our different parliamentary assemblies , which took longer than expected.

On 20 August 2013 Belgium ratified the MLC and became the 46th country and 19th European member state to ratify the convention. On that same day, the MLC entered into force worldwide.

According to article VIII of the convention, the convention will only enter into force one year after the ratification. For Belgium this is on 21 August 2014.

The convention is an important instrument. It combines and replaces some of the earlier ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions and establishes new fundamental guarantees and rights for the working environment for seafarers around the world.

As usual, the flag of the ship will in principle determine whether the ship falls under the application of this convention. To avoid a massive run to countries with flags of convenience the convention established a special regime of control and inspection. Every member state can inspect all ships under the flag of that country but also all ships present in its ports.

The system works with MLC certificates. These are valid for 5 years and must be renewed. Thus, efficient and fast inspections are possible a recent Royal Decree imposed a compulsory model for these certificates.

Although not all countries have ratified the convention yet, all ships can be subject to an inspection when they enter a port of a member state of MLC.

To give some countries the chance to fulfil all necessary conditions of MLC, a transitional system was made. In resolution XVII (which is not binding) ILO asks all member states to avoid very strict inspections in the first 12 months. Some countries have already announced that they will not follow this guideline.

How the Belgian inspections will turn out to be is yet unknown. In any case some new rules entered into force by Law of 13 June 2014 with regard to the implementation and inspections of the MLC convention. A Royal Decree of 4 August 2014 introduced additional rules for these inspections. For example the Directorate General of Maritime Transport (part of the Ministry of Transport) and the social inspection are assigned with the task of these inspections.

The Royal Decree of 22 December 2012 on port state control was also adjusted recently to allow for additional inspections for the MLC provisions (see Royal Decree of 21 July 2014).

From 21 August 2014 all inspections on the compliance of the MLC convention will be possible for ships entering Belgian ports and for all ships under Belgian flag. For the moment it is uncertain whether the Belgian inspections will be strict.

For more information, please contact Peter Van de Vijver or Philippe Van Dijck.

Published in: Legal insights