The ILO MLC, 2006 requires that Member States (signatories) ensure that seafarers working onboard a ship have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being.
It says that ‘each Member shall encourage the establishment of welfare boards which shall regularly review welfare facilities and services to ensure that they are appropriate in the light of changes in the needs of seafarers resulting from technical, operational and other developments in the shipping industry.
’Welfare Boards, through use of the Port Visitor platform, can help governments meet their obligations under MLC 2006 and ensure that welfare provision for seafarers is available when and where the need is greatest.
To start with we are asking governments who have ratified MLC, 2006 to encourage port owners and authorities, unions and voluntary organisations to take up this challenge and ensure that a Welfare Board/Seafarers' welfare Committee is established in every port.
Improving shore-based welfare facilities and services not only benefits seafarers, especially during the pandemic, but also gives ship and port owners/operators an edge as they vie for business in an ever-competitive market.
Shipping companies benefit from knowing their crews are being cared for in the best possible way when they're away from home, particularly when they are in port, having good access to welfare facilities and services.
Healthy and happy seafarers can positively affect the bottom line for their employers, so everyone wins! A healthy and content seafarer is a safer, more productive seafarer.
We want ship owners to encourage, or initiate, the formation of welfare boards in the ports that their ships regularly visit. Better still, by being actively involved and joining a welfare board, ship owners or their agents can be assured that their crews have access to the very best support services when they’re miles from home. It does make a real difference.
The welfare of seafarers has always been of paramount interest to the unions that represent them. Indeed, unions played an important part in establishing the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 in the first place.
An integral part of MLC 2006 is to encourage the formation of Welfare Boards, which the International Port Welfare Partnership promotes as a mechanism for positive and continuous change.
In supporting this initiative, unions can have considerable influence in how facilities and services are developed to support their members. This will ensure that more ports in more countries provide uninhibited access to the essential services that keep seafarers healthy and happy.
Unions and their affiliates can help directly by joining or forming a welfare board, or by encouraging others – governments, ship owners, ports and voluntary organisations - to do so.
Providing seafarers’ welfare facilities can offer tangible competitive advantages to port owners and authorities. And provision of welfare facilities doesn’t need to come at a huge cost either. In most of the ports where there are facilities, the services are generally provided by voluntary organisations.
Of course, it is more beneficial for everyone to work together which is why we encourage ports to start or join a welfare board and work with other organisations. By doing so, your port can complement the welfare services provided by the voluntary sector to provide a positive experience for visiting seafarers.
This is an opportunity to change the way seafarers are cared for and to ensure a positive experience when they come to your port. This is why the International Labour Organization (ILO) has included seafarer welfare in the Maritime Labour Convention– (MLC,2006) and this is why we want you to be involved.
Charities and voluntary organisations already provide essential welfare services to seafarer visiting the world’s trade ports, yet more than 80% of trade ports still have poor or no welfare facilities for seafarers. With nearly 4,000 ports without resident welfare providers, the task of ahead of us is monumental.
As the welfare providers know only too well that a rare port visit offers an important opportunity for a seafarer to rest and unwind, receive care, communicate with their families, visit a doctor, seek advice or visit local shops. Welfare Boards can ensure that shore leave is an unhindered and positive experience, particularly where there is an absence of welfare service providers. They are the key to unlocking seafarer potential.
Charities and voluntary organisations are on the front line of welfare provision, and they are well placed to form Welfare Boards and drive this initiative forward. That is why we are encouraging all welfare providers to support this initiative, register existing welfare boards or committees, form new ones where none exist, and be at the heart of welfare improvements globally.
Join the Port Visitor community today, and be part of a global network that empowers maritime communities to publish, share and review crucial port welfare information. By offering a platform to provide feedback, we aim to create a positive and collaborative environment, and ensure that seafarers worldwide receive the support they deserve.