ILO issues a revised information note in response to Covid-19 pandemic

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has issued a revised Covid-19 information note (2.0) that includes a joint statement of the Officers of the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention.

The new information note restates the importance of seafarers and global trade in and asks member states to recognize seafarers as key workers to facilitate crew changes. The note also touches upon other key issues, including Force Majeure, seafarer contract extension and fatigue.

The ILO said that the pandemic had created a global crisis which had impacted all aspects of life and badly affected the world of work. In the maritime sector it had severely disrupted the functioning of shipping and affected the work of nearly two million seafarers worldwide.

On April 7th, when the first version of this information note was published, it was noted that the exceptional circumstances, when and where they prevailed, might render materially impossible the compliance with some of the obligations set out in MLC 2006. “These exceptional circumstances could constitute cases of force majeure”, ILO said, adding that “while authorities are encouraged to be pragmatic in their approach when confronted with such exceptional circumstances, they should also ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic is not used as an excuse to breach MLC 2006.

“It is important to recall that the test of the applicability of force majeure is an absolute and material impossibility of compliance with an obligation in a given specific case. In contrast, circumstances rendering performance more difficult or burdensome do not constitute a case of force majeure. In other words, from the moment that options are available to comply with the provisions of the MLC 2006, however difficult or cumbersome these might be, the notion of force majeure may no longer be invoked”. ILO said.