Government of Jamaica committed to welfare of seafarers

Minister of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles has pledged Government’s commitment to ensure that Jamaican seafarers and foreigners who work on the country’s ships enjoy decent working conditions. The minister also promised that the country would continue to promote the training and employment of the Jamaican crew as the shipping industry plays a key role in the Caribbean economy with over 90 per cent of goods arriving by sea.

“The governments of the region have a keen interest in ensuring that our nationals and those men and women of other countries who served on board vessels flying our flags, enjoy the right to decent conditions of work,” the minister said.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the regional training workshop at Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Wednesday.

The aim of the three-day event, jointly hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Caribbean’s office, the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and the Caribbean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control, was to train port state control officers from the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries to carry out ship inspection under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006.

According to Charles, the Caribbean region plays a critical role in global shipping with over eight countries in the region administering major ship registry – accounting for over one fifth of the global fleet although most of the vessels are manned by foreign crews.

However, he noted that a significant portion of the hospitality crew employed on board cruise vessels, which operate in the Caribbean, are from countries in the region.

As it relates to the convention, Minister Charles said that Jamaica has not yet ratified the convention but fully supported it coming into force and subsequent implementation.

“The convention not only consolidates a number of ILO maritime conventions, but also establishes an effective system of compliance and enforcement that helps to eliminate substandard shipping in the Caribbean region and the world,” Charles said.

So far, Charles said the ministry has collaborated with the transport ministry, the Maritime Authority, Port Authority and the Caribbean Maritime Institute to ensure that there is a policy and legal framework in place for the development of a sustainable shipping industry that meets the international accepted labour standard established by the ILO.

Director of Legal affairs at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Bertrand Smith said that the country is now in the process of reviewing existing laws and Shipping Act to determine what should be repealed or amended.

Meantime, Dominique Devlin — ILO special advisor on MLC — said that the MLC contains a comprehensive set of global standards, based on those that are already found in over 60 maritime labour instruments, and sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions, which include medical care, contract of employment, social security and accommodation.

(The Jamaica Observer)

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