Maritime Labour Convention: An Indian Perspective into the Labour Perils of the Sea

Nilanjana Nair
KLE Society’s Law College, Karnataka State Law University, Bangalore, India.

Volume III, Issue V, 2020

The Maritime Labour Convention was touted as the foremost legislation in protecting the rights of seafarers.  With international shipping accounting for 95% of the world trade, seafarers are both the most essential and at-risk workforce. They are exposed to harsh and unexpected weather conditions coupled with strenuous physical labour and the mental toll of being separated from their family and friends.   While at sea, these workers are far away from the well woven umbrella of law. The Maritime Labour Convention was established as a mechanism that can extend this umbrella through mutual cooperation of the port countries and international bodies. However, this aspect of the Convention could very well be part of its own downfall as the convention is only as good as the manner in which they have been adopted by the signatory countries. India being the leader in supplying human resources for shipping and maritime trade as well as a signatory to the Convention has a responsibility to ensure that a robust national legislation is set in place. But the numerous cases of abuse of Indian seafarers who are left without repatriation, abandoned on ships or even forced to accept brutal conditions to retain their low paying jobs proves that the Indian maritime legislation is lagging behind the international standards of labour rights. This article navigates through the deplorable conditions faced by seafarers on international waters and delves into the importance of the comprehensive Maritime Labour Convention. The article further highlights the current maritime legislative tools available in India and analyzes whether these tools are sufficiently protecting the rights of the seafarers.

Keywords: Martime Labour Convention (MLC), Merchant Shipping Act (MSA), Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour) Rules, India