Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson has called on governments, shipowners and maritime unions to form a 'coalition of the willing' to learn the lessons of Covid-19 and deliver a new social contract for seafarers.
Speaking at the 13 November 2023 Joint IMO/ILO Conference on Work at Sea, he continued: 'This can be achieved with a genuine commitment from governments to support tripartism and to strengthen social dialogue between shipowners and managers and seafarers' unions.'
Mr Dickinson took part in the first session of the day, themed around Ensuring Rights at Sea, and was representing the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on a panel tackling Best Practices for Responsible Ship Management
In his speech, Mr Dickinson said that Covid-19 had exposed many seafarers to 'unacceptable' disregard for, and ignorance of, their fundamental social and employment rights.
Onboard safety is among these fundamental rights, he stressed, adding: 'One would expect that, in terms of best practice, responsible shipowners and managers would at the very least subscribe to the minimum requirements outlined in IMO and ILO instruments.' However, merely adhering to 'minimums' is not at all conducive to safe operations, he argued.
'This is something that the ITF is very clear about, and we have developed an ITF Manning Policy that fully takes account of IMO regulations and requirements. Adopting this would represent a major step forward and represent a genuine attempt at best practice, rather than the continuation of the race to the bottom and competition between flag states to offer the lowest crewing levels.'
Mr Dickinson reminded delegates that there is another set of minimum conditions in the shape of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Yet some ship owners and managers 'conveniently forget that the MLC was not a destination but the start of a journey.'
To go beyond these all these minimums and truly value seafarers as essential key workers, the maritime sector needs to join the leaders of the UN and ILO in calling for a new social contract for all workers.
The ITF is already onboard, but now governments and shipowners need to do their part, Mr Dickinson concluded. 'Together we can deliver a new social contract for seafarers. This will ultimately represent a new era of best practices, turn well-meaning platitudes into action and reward seafarers for their status as key workers who move the world.'