By its very nature, the merchant navy sector is international. For years, the Belgian merchant navy has suffered due to international competition from low-wage countries, together with all its negative consequences, such as lack of safety on board ships and poorly trained sailors. Under pressure from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) (to which the UBT is affiliated), the Maritime Labour Convention, better known as MLC 2006, was concluded by the International Labour Organisation (ITO). This agreement combines all existing conventions on maritime labour and other ILO conventions. It is considered the fourth pillar of maritime legislation, alongside the other three major conventions of the International Maritime Organisation (OMI): SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW.

The convention marks an extremely important step towards improving work and pay conditions for seafarers. It not only combines old conventions, but also includes new requirements, such as the certification of living and working conditions on board ships, by means of the “Maritime Labour Certificate”. Belgium only ratified the convention in 2013 and it has since been approved by 79 countries, which together represent 91% of the total gross tonnage transported by seagoing vessels all over the world.

Our ITF inspectors, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., are responsible for monitoring the fulfilment of MLC requirements on ships that fly a flag of convenience and are docked at one of the Belgian ports. They check whether these ships are respecting international agreements concerning safety, comfort and hygiene on board, food and work, and whether salaries are paid correctly and on time. They can be contacted by the port authorities, the port police or any sailor who finds himself at one of the Belgian ports and has a problem with his captain or employer. Follow their work on our Facebook page and find out about the scandalous conditions, under which some sailors are forced to work.

Marc and Rino report back to the International Transport Workers’ Federation and consult their foreign colleagues if ships or shipowners are clearly failing to respect the regulations and international conventions.