The merchant marine sector is pre-eminently an international affair. For years, Belgian merchant shipping, among others, suffered under international competition from low-wage countries. Often with dire consequences, unsafe ships, barely trained seafarers... Under pressure from the International Transportworkers' Federation (ITF) (of which the BTB is a member), the Maritime Labour Convention, better known as MLC 2006, was concluded within the International Labour Organization (ILO). This brings together all existing maritime and other ILO labor conventions. The convention is considered the fourth pillar of maritime regulation, in addition to the three main International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions: SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW.

The convention is a very important step in improving the working conditions and wage conditions of seafarers. The treaty not only combines previous conventions but also introduces new requirements, especially the certification of living and working conditions on board sea-going vessels, the Maritime Labor Certificate. Belgium ratified the treaty only in 2013. Together, they represent 91% of the world's total gross tonnage of ocean-going vessels.

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., ensure compliance with MLC regulations on ships sailing under an FOC and docked in Belgian ports. They inspect ships to verify whether they comply with international agreements on safety, comfort, hygiene, food, and work agreements. They also check if wages are paid on time. If seafarers face any problem with their employer or captain while in a Belgian port, they can contact the port authorities, port police, or ITF inspectors. Follow their actions on our Facebook page and see for yourself the harsh working conditions some seafarers have to endure.

In cases where ships or shipping companies fail to comply with international agreements, Marc and Rino report to the International Trade Union and consult with foreign colleagues. You can find their contact information on our website.


Marc van Noten - IFT Inspector

  Telefoon.png Phone: 03/224.34.19

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Rino Huijsmans - IFT Inspector

  Telefoon.png Phone number : 03/224.34.14

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As a trade union federation, we sometimes see self-employed inland shippers moving their companies to neighbouring countries. Sometimes they take the workers with them, but very often they don't. Belgium loses many jobs as a result. In other cases, we notice that companies establish themselves in former Eastern European countries, recruit personnel from those countries at lower wages, and then carry out assignments here under market prices. Not only does this cause our society to lose jobs, but it also undermines the prosperity of our society because they flout the social rules of the game.

With the BTB Maritime sector, we are working very hard within the European Transport Federation, together with the other European transport unions, to stop these abuses. Under pressure from the ETF, the European Parliament adopted a directive that imposes a number of minimum conditions in terms of personnel and safety on board. The battle is not over yet, but BTB is not giving up...