Odessa National University Model United Nations 2012
International Maritime Organization
Cheap Labour and the Problem of Shipping’s Safety
Over 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. Without shipping the
import and export of goods on the scale necessary for the modern world would not be possible. There are
around 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is
registered in over 150 nations, and manned by over a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.
In the world’s shipping the World Labour market has been formed. Hundreds Ukrainian seafarers
are crew members aboard of foreign ships. So, the Problem of Labour of crew members and the Problem
of Shipping’s Safety expose great importance for our country, seafarers and members of their families.
Safety and Regulation
Merchant shipping is one of the most heavily regulated industries and was amongst the first to
adopt widely implemented international safety standards.
Regulations concerning shipping are developed at the global level. Because shipping is inherently
international, it is vital that shipping is subject to uniform regulations on matters such as construction
standards, navigational rules and standards of crew competence. The alternative would be a plethora of
conflicting national regulations resulting in commercial distortion and administrative confusion which
would compromise the efficiency of world trade.
The shipping industry is principally regulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO),
which is the London based United Nations agency responsible for the safety of life at sea and the
protection of the marine environment. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is also responsible
for the development of labour standards applicable to seafarers worldwide.
IMO has adopted a comprehensive framework of detailed technical regulations, in the form of
international diplomatic conventions which govern the safety of ships and protection of the marine
environment. National governments, which form the membership of IMO, are required to implement and
enforce these international rules, and ensure that the ships which are registered under their national flags
The principal responsibility for enforcing IMO regulations concerning ship safety and
environmental protection rests with the flag states (i.e. the countries in which merchant ships are
registered - which may be different to the country in which they are owned).
Flag states enforce IMO requirements through inspections of ships conducted by a network of
The following are the major international shipping conventions, adopted by the IMO (and the
International Labour Organization) concerning safety and pollution prevention. However, many other
maritime instruments concerning more specific issues are also in force worldwide:
- SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974) lays down a comprehensive range
of minimum standards for the safe construction of ships and the basic safety equipment (e.g. fire
protection, navigation, lifesaving and radio) to be carried on board. SOLAS also requires regular ship
surveys and the issue by flag states of certificates of compliance.
- STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for
Seafarers, 1978/1995) establishes uniform standards of competence for seafarers.
- ILO 147 (The ILO Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976) requires national
administrations to have effective legislation on labour issues such as hours of work, medical fitness and
seafarers' working conditions.
- ISM (The International Safety Management Code, 1993) effectively requires shipping companies to
have a licence to operate. Companies and their ships must undergo regular audits to ensure that a safety
management system is in place, including adequate procedures and lines of communication between
ships and their managers ashore.
The ‘Manila Amendments’ to the Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and
Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention (STCW).
International Shipping Federation (ISF) continues to lead the representation of maritime
employers at IMO. In June 2010, in Manila, this included representation of ship-owners at an IMO
Diplomatic Conference which adopted a wide ranging set of amendments to the IMO Convention on
Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
The competence of seafarers is a most critical factor in the safe and efficient operation of ships,
and has a direct impact on the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment. The
STCW Convention constitutes a comprehensive set of regulations intended to maintain the highest
standards of competence globally. In particular, the STCW Convention places important responsibilities
on maritime employers, obligations with which they must fully comply.
Numerous amendments were adopted to take account of recent technical developments requiring
new shipboard skills, such as the use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) or
the need to give more emphasis to environmental management. But the changes also cover such matters
as new training requirements for leadership and teamwork, enhanced refresher training for qualified
seafarers, and the introduction of standards of competence for the new grade of Able Seafarer in both the
deck and engine departments. There are also new competence tables and training requirements for
personnel on oil and chemical tankers and gas carriers. Importantly, the 2010 amendments also introduce
major changes to IMO regulations concerning seafarers’ minimum rest hours, which are intended to
New STCW requirements such as enhanced 5 yearly refresher training, or the mandatory use of training
record books for new rating trainees. From January 2013, new seafarers commencing training will be
required to do so in accordance with the new training and competence standards.
This will be necessary, by July 2013, if governments wish to maintain a place on the IMO ‘white
list’ of nations that have demonstrated continuing adherence to STCW standards, so as to avoid port state
control difficulties for their ships, or flag state recognition problems for seafarers working on foreign
ships to whom they have issued STCW certificates.
The ILO Maritime Labour Convention is probably the most important international regulation
affecting manning and labour affairs. It covers every aspect of the manning of ships, from employment
conditions to medical standards, and from crew accommodation to work hour regulations.
Manning levels and crew skill requirements and a range of international regulations on crew
welfare are based on conventions made at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva. As
crew costs remain a major cost component in the operation of ships, operators constantly look for ways of
reducing those costs, generally by employing ratings from lower cost countries such as the Philippines,
Myanmar and China.
Under the MLC, 2006, States must inspect all ships flying their flag and also issue those ships
with a maritime labour certificate and a declaration of maritime labour compliance if ships are 500 gt or
over and go on international voyages.
What are Flags of Convenience? (FOC)
A flag of convenience ship is one that flies the flag of a country other than the country of
ownership. Cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour are the
motivating factors behind a shipowner's decision to 'flag out'. Shipowners who use FOCs are free from
national regulations (such as those mandating that crew members share the nationality of the ﬂag of the
ship), they can hire workers from around the globe and organize blends of nationalities across job
categories. Sometimes, because of language differences, seafarers are not able to communicate
effectively with each other, putting safety and the efficient operation of the ship at risk.
Once a ship is registered under an FOC, many shipowners then recruit the cheapest labour they
can find, pay minimal wages and cut costs by lowering standards of living and working conditions for the
Globalisation has helped to fuel this rush to the bottom. In an increasingly fierce competitive
shipping market, each new FOC is forced to promote itself by offering the lowest possible fees and the
minimum of regulation. In the same way, ship owners are forced to look for the cheapest and least
regulated ways of running their vessels in order to compete, and FOCs provide the solution.
Some of these registers have poor safety and training standards and state control.
List of Literature and Sources
1. Key Issues 2011 - The Year in Review http://www.marisec.org/ics-isfkeyissues.htm
2. Shipping and World Trade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .