Treaty Obligations Without Ratification? The Maritime Labour Convention Enters into Force


The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights,” entered into force August 20, 2013. The United States has not ratified the MLC, but will still have to apply the MLC requirements, through the “no more favourable treatment clause,” to ships flagged in ratifying countries and comply with the 14 minimum requirements set by the MLC when calling ports of ratifying countries. In August 2013 the U.S Coast Guard, as the organization tasked with the Obama Administration’s review of the MLC, released guidance for their policies and procedures regarding the inspection of U.S. vessels for voluntary compliance with the MLC. While the MLC is pending potential signature and ratification for the U.S., the Coast Guard is guiding the maritime industry to voluntarily comply such “to minimize difficulties that might be experienced when U.S. vessels call in foreign ports of nations party to MLC 2006.” This suggests that even without ratification, the U.S. is practically compelled to adhere to the provisions of an international instrument to which it is not a party.

International Labour Organization, Shipping industry sets sail under new standard, available at–en/index.htm; see International Labour Conference, Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, art. V, paragraph 7 February 23, 2006, U.N.T.S. Registration Number I-51299 (referencing what is referred to by the ILO as the “no more favourable treatment clause; see also International Labour Organization, International Labour Standards Department, Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) Frequently Asked Question (FAQ), Third (revised) edition, at A4, 2014, available at—ed_norm/—normes/documents/publication/wcms_238010.pdf; U.S. Dep. of Homeland Sec., U.S. Coast Guard, Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) NO. 02-13, Guidance Implementing the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (2013) available at!documentDetail;D=USCG-2012-1066-0034; Charles R. Lipcon, U.S. Implements Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, Cruise Ship Law Blog (May 23, 2013),


(Development authored by Phoebe Ramsey)