By MICHAEL EBOH
The ratification and planned domestication of the Maritime Labour Convention, MLC 2006, in Nigeria, will help entrench fair competition among ship owners, reduce oil bunkering, boost local content and increase Nigeria’s crude production and export, according to stakeholders in the petroleum and maritime sector.
Nigeria became the 37th member state to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention, as the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Emeka Wogu, presented the instrument of ratification to the Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Guy Rider in Geneva at the just concluded 102nd conference of the International Labour Organisation, ILO.
According to Wogu, the discovery of oil in many countries in the West African sub region has increased maritime activities which have made the ratification of the MLC 2006 more compelling.
He said, “Nigeria has decided to join other countries that have ratified this very important convention known as the Seafarers Bill of Rights in order to safeguard the fundamental rights of the seafarers and ship owners.”
He also noted that domestication of the Convention will ensure increased employment generation, increase in revenue generation, reduction in piracy, oil bunkering and insecurity.
According to him, this marks the beginning of a journey that will take Nigeria to a higher level in the maritime industry, especially as it is in realization of this new trend of economic activities that will create both positive and negative results that has informed the need for a well regulated maritime sector.
A stakeholder, Mr. Philips Matthew, Senior Vice President, PEM Offshore, said it is a major breakthrough that would uphold our Flag State and complement the global effort for promoting decent working and living conditions of seafarers and ensuring conditions of fair competition for ship owners.
The effect on the petroleum industry, according to him, is that participants in the oil industry would ensure that their contractors comply as soon as possible as seizure would amount to downtimes to both the oil companies and in turn affect daily production.
With the ratification, Matthew said, Nigeria is the 37th ILO Member State and the fifth State from the African region – after Benin, Liberia, Morocco and Togo – to have ratified the landmark Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
He noted that it will ensure that better players would emerge in the industry while shabby and non-compliant owners/operators would leave.
As regards local content, he said, “It is solely a drive to promote decent working and living conditions of seafarers and ensuring better working conditions for those working aboard ships. This is the actual aim of local content, not just to ensure local participation, but also to ensure a better working environment as well.”
Another stakeholder, Mr. Steve Blair, Manager, MSC, said the MLC 2006 includes a ‘no more favourable treatment’ clause, meaning that member states will be obligated to ensure that the ships that fly the flag of any state that has not ratified the convention do not receive more favourable treatment than the ships that fly the flag of any state that has ratified it.
He maintained that there will be no hiding place for ships from non-compliant countries, as the law will force many ships registered in states not party to the convention to seek and obtain voluntary MLC certificates.
He described the MLC as the fourth pillar of international maritime, which embodies all up-to-date standards of existing international maritime labour conventions and recommendations, as well as the fundamental principles to be found in other international labour conventions.
In his own view, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, said the ratification of MLC 2006 is a defining moment for the Nigerian maritime sector.
He said that NIMASA will work with other stakeholders to vigorously pursue the domestication of the Convention within the shortest possible time. He said, “It comes with a whole lot of activities that will greatly impact on the maritime sector in terms of labour and in terms of crewing.
“As a matter of fact, it opens a new vista entirely. After the ratification, we will begin an entirely new process that will turn the sector around.”
He said the MLC 2006 sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work on a wide range of subjects, and aims to be globally applicable, easily understandable, readily updatable and uniformly enforced.
He described the convention as the ‘fourth pillar’ of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Mr. Kunle Folarin, Chairman of the National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB), commended President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for promptly ratifying the MLC 2006, saying it will contribute meaningfully to the growth of the Nigerian economy, and improve the fortunes of the maritime and petroleum sector, in particular.
Other stakeholders, including former Executive Chairman of the defunct Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) and pioneer Board Chairman of NIMASA, Mr. Tijjani Ahmed Ramalan; Chairman, House Committee on Treatise, Hon. Dayo Bush Alebiosu and Chairman, House Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity – Hon. Essien Ekpenyong Ayi, assured of their commitment to work with other stakeholders for prompt domestication of the Convention.