National welfare boards and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) | ISWAN

National welfare boards and the Maritime Labour Convention

The need for port welfare committees and national welfare boards is stated in the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC). This sets out minimum standards for seafarers' accommodation, catering, health and other conditions. National welfare boards and port welfare committees come under Title 4 of the MLC (Health protection, medical care and welfare and social security), Regulation 4.4 (Access to shore-based welfare facilities).
Guideline B4.4.3 concerns welfare boards. It states:

1. Welfare boards should be established, at the port, regional and national levels, as appropriate. Their functions should include:

(a) keeping under review the adequacy of existing welfare facilities and monitoring the need for the provision of additional facilities or the withdrawal of underutilized facilities; and
(b) assisting and advising those responsible for providing welfare facilities and ensuring coordination between them.

2. Welfare boards should include among their members representatives of ship owners’ and seafarers’ organizations, the competent authorities and, where appropriate, voluntary organizations and social bodies.

3. As appropriate, consuls of maritime States and local representatives of foreign welfare organizations should, in accordance with national laws and regulations, be associated with the work of port, regional and national welfare boards.

Each signatory of the MLC has to review their own provision of shore-based welfare arrangements. Wherever possible, each state should follow the guidelines which include the establishment of welfare boards and port welfare committees.

A country which has ratified the MLC 2006, though, is not required to provide a national welfare board although it is required to have considered it. This reflects the concern of some Governments to ensure the development of shore-based welfare facilities but without financial obligation to provide them.

The MLC will come into force worldwide a year after it has been ratified by 30 ILO member states which account for at least a third of the world shipping fleet. Ratification is proceeding and the ILO expects the MLC to be in force by 2012.

In some countries, there is national legislation establishing national welfare boards.

Download the MLC 2006

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