The UK has ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006).
Following ratification, 41 ILO member countries, or 75.3% of the world gross tonnage of ships and about 50% of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers, are now committed to the MLC, which is scheduled to come into force on 20 August.
The UK is the 15th EU member state to have ratified the Convention, which consolidates and updates more than 68 international labour standards in the maritime sector.
MLC 2006 is expected to become the fourth pillar of the international maritime legal regulations, ensuring decent working and living conditions for seafarers and conditions of fair competition for shipowners.
The UK has around 120 commercial ports, and is currently building a major deep-sea port, London Gateway, which will handle the biggest container ships in the world.
The country has around 24,100 seafarers, and 1,383 registered vessels with 16.57 million gross tonnage. Its maritime sector contributes about £13.8bn to UK GDP.
United Nations deputy permanent representative of the UK Mark Matthews said the Convention would promote acceptable working conditions for seafarers globally.
"It will also promote a level playing field for the UK merchant fleet and have spin-offs for international trade," Matthews said.
ILO director-general Guy Ryder said: "This ratification by such important participants in the maritime industry, the United Kingdom, alone, has nearly 1,500 vessels flying its flag and an advanced Port State Control, not to mention the importance of Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, helps to ensure that the decent working and living conditions for the world’s seafarers will truly be implemented and enforced."