1. What is the Maritime Labour Convention?

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 is an International Labour Organisation treaty. It sets internationally agreed minimum standards for the provision of decent working and living conditions on commercial ships. It covers almost every aspect of their work and life on board including:

  • minimum age
  • seafarers’ employment agreements
  • hours of work or rest
  • payment of wages
  • paid annual leave
  • repatriation at the end of contract
  • onboard medical care
  • accommodation, food and catering
  • health and safety protection and accident prevention
  • seafarers’ complaint handling.

The Convention came into force internationally in 2013, once 30 countries had ratified it.

2. Why has New Zealand ratified the Convention?

It will give New Zealand jurisdiction to inspect and verify that crews on ships carrying New Zealand’s goods are treated fairly, and in accordance with internationally accepted standards.

The Convention also benefits New Zealand ships as vessels must meet the standards of the Convention before they will be granted a Maritime labour certificate, enabling New Zealand ships to easily demonstrate compliance to foreign authorities who are party to the Convention, should it be required.

Ratifying the Convention will also protect the reputation of New Zealand exports, given that more than 99 percent of New Zealand’s export goods are transported by foreign ships.

3. Are there any costs to industry ratifying the Convention?

New Zealand legislation is already largely consistent with the Maritime Labour Convention. Therefore New Zealand commercial ship owners and operators are not expected to be required to make significant changes to current practices in order to implement the Convention.

The latest Maritime Rules updates, including those required for ratification of the Convention, are available below:

Latest rule updates:
http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/Rules/Latest-rules.asp(external link)

List of all rules:
http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/Rules/List-of-all-rules/List-of-rules.asp(external link)

4. Which New Zealand ships will be affected by the Convention?

When New Zealand ratifies the Maritime Labour Convention, the Convention’s standards will apply to all ships that are:

  • New Zealand-registered, or foreign-registered and operating in New Zealand, excluding ships that navigate exclusively in restricted limit areas (enclosed water and inshore limits) [1]
  • of 200 gross tonnage and over[2], or smaller ships engaged in international voyages
  • ordinarily engaged in commercial activities, excluding ships engaged in fishing or in similar pursuits.

Table of New Zealand ships likely to be affected, once the Convention is ratified



Container ships and bulk carriers


Tugs that travel outside harbour limits


Cook Strait ferries


Oil or other tankers


Milford sound tourist vessels


Research and survey vessels


Dredging vessels


Charter yachts




5. Does the Maritime Labour Convention apply to fishing vessels?

The Maritime Labour Convention does not apply to fishing vessels.

The government has separately committed to a range of measures to ensure fair treatment of crews on fishing vessels and vessel safety.

Following recommendations of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Chartered Fishing Vessels (FCVs) in 2012, it will be compulsory for all foreign chartered fishing vessels (FCVs) to be reflagged as New Zealand ships by 1 May 2016. FCV’s flagged to New Zealand will be subject to the same legislative and regulatory requirements and enforcement provision as a domestically owned and flagged vessel. This ensures that all FCVs act in accordance with New Zealand law, to ensure appropriate health, safety and labour conditions for crew, and sustainable and lawful fishing practices.

6. How will New Zealand inspect foreign ships for compliance with the Convention?

Maritime New Zealand will check for compliance with the Convention as part of its routine port state control inspections. A Maritime Labour Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance will be prima facie evidence of compliance with the Convention.

If the Maritime Officer has reason to suspect that the ship does not comply with the Convention, a more detailed inspection could be carried out to ascertain the working and living conditions on board the ship.

The Convention contains a “no more favourable” treatment clause, which requires member states ensure that a ship flying the flag of a state that has not ratified the Convention does not receive more favourable treatment than a ship flying the flag of a state that has ratified the Convention. This means that New Zealand will be able to apply the standards of the Convention to all applicable ships visiting New Zealand ports.

7. How will New Zealand ships be inspected for compliance with the Convention?

Seventeen New Zealand ships likely to be affected by the Convention operate under New Zealand’s Maritime Operator Safety System regime. Under this regime, audits will vary according to the operator’s operating record and risk level, but audits will typically be conducted in the second, fifth and eighth years of an operation. These vessels will be inspected for compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention, with inspections aligned where possible with this audit regime.

The other fourteen New Zealand ships the Convention will apply to SOLAS ships and/or those that operate under the International Safety Management Code regime. These vessels are currently subject to annual flag state inspections. These vessels will be inspected to ensure compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention on an annual basis as part of the existing process.

8. What could Maritime New Zealand do if a foreign ship did not comply with the Convention?

Maritime New Zealand could:

  • notify the flag state of the non-conformity
  • require the ship owner to rectify the non-conformity
  • investigate further.

If Maritime New Zealand deemed it necessary, it could detain the ship until the non-conformity was rectified.

9. What are the next steps?

The Convention will come into force on 9 March 2017.

10. Where can people go for more information?

 The Maritime New Zealand website(external link)

[1] As defined and explained in Maritime Rule Part 20 – Operating Limits

[2] New Zealand intends to exclude ships of less than 200 gross tonnage that are not engaged in international voyages, as permitted under the convention.