The delegation of Sri Lanka extends sincere congratulations to you and the Bureau on your election and assures you of our full cooperation in the successful completion of the Conference.
Historically maritime issues have had a special consideration within ILO, as witnessed by the treatment of these issues at special Maritime sessions. This session marks a significant step in ILO standard setting activities in this area by the proposed adoption of a single Comprehensive Convention, forward looking, addressing issues of contemporary concern in a practical manner facilitating future updating of technical standards. ILO’s technical cooperation in the effective implementation of the Convention, if adopted, would be invaluable.
Though not a major maritime nation, Sri Lanka has about 5,000 seafarers working on board ships around the globe, at any given time, with another 17,500 seafarers who have been registered with the Merchant Shipping Division of the Ministry of Ports and Aviation of Sri Lanka, awaiting employment and upto 31 January 2006, has issued about 29,000 CDCs to Sri Lankan seafarers since the 1970s.
Mr. Chairman, Sri Lanka is a Party to five ILO Maritime Conventions, while additionally national legislation covers many provisions of other ILO Conventions as part of implementation of the Decent Work Agenda. Under these regulations, only seafarers over 18 years of age could obtain CDCs and as a rule, the working hours for seafarers are set at 8 hours a day and every extra hour worked is considered as overtime. Sri Lanka follows IMO/ILO recommended medical standards for all seafarers. Whenever there is development in the field of medical standards pertaining to seafarers, the approved panel of doctors is kept abreast of such developments for purposes of compliance. With regard to safe working conditions on board ships, Sri Lankan ship owners are advised to have decent working conditions. Foreign ships visiting Sri Lankan ports are examined by the port control officers to ensure that safe and decent working conditions are maintained on those ships at all times.
Mr. Chairman, despite the fact that the maritime sector offers a large number of employment opportunities, there is a mismatch and a lack of coordination between the demand and the supply of labour in this sector. As for Sri Lanka, we have the capacity to provide land based training for seafarers which is appreciated throughout the region. However, due to the very small fleet of ships, we lack the capacity to provide adequate on board training. Our institutions could double the intake of the trainees if there are opportunities for on board training. Therefore, we urge ship-owners to increase on board training facilities for cadets in order to increase the number of trained officers, thereby creating a win-win situation for both governments and ship-owners. In this context we agree with the finding in the survey as stated in the DG’s Report that possibly every commercial ship should have a minimum of 1.5 trainees on average.
We fully agree with the Director General’s remarks in paragraph 42 of the Report concerning difficulties faced by seafarers from certain countries as a result of the abolishing of long-established practices by some states. As the Director General has correctly mentioned, some countries having lost their opportunities as ship-owners have turned to other sources of maritime labour. We also agree with the conclusions of the Director General in paragraphs 214-216 of the Report.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Sri Lanka welcomes the constructive dialogue between governments and social partners in negotiating this Convention, which we witnessed during the last two weeks and hopes that this draft Convention could be adopted with broad support.