Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) in Great Britain have welcomed the overwhelming adoption today in Geneva of a new international Convention to protect seafarers. Delegates at the 10th maritime session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva voted by 314 to 0 (with four abstentions) in favour of adopting the Consolidated Maritime Labour Convention, which sets out rights to decent conditions of work for the world's 1.2 million international merchant seafarers. It covers a wide range of vital issues affecting the lives of seafarers, including health, safety, minimum age, recruitment and hours of work, while establishing effective enforcement mechanisms. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "Seafarers make a vital contribution to our lives and our economy, yet work in often precarious conditions and with few safeguards for themselves and their families. For this reason I welcome the adoption in Geneva of the new international Convention on maritime labour standards. Once it is ratified and implemented, the Convention will greatly help to ensure that the human dignity and social rights of vulnerable seafarers are respected. I particularly welcome the British Government's contribution to the adoption of the Convention, and would urge it to work now towards its swift ratification." Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who is also the Patron of AOS, added: "I also want to salute the Apostleship of the Sea for its work in bringing about the adoption of this Convention. Through it, the Catholic Church in England and Wales will continue to speak out for the welfare of the seafarers who bring us almost all the goods we use and consume every day, just as worldwide the Church will continue to advocate a more just and human face to globalisation." Commodore Chris York, National Director of AOS in Great Britain, speaking from Geneva, said: "I warmly welcome today's overwhelming vote to adopt this landmark Convention, which is a sign of hope for both the international community and all seafarers. It is a vital step forward in the huge task of putting a human face on globalisation in the maritime world. "I would particularly like to applaud the proactive stance of the British government throughout the negotiations, and for their strong support for the Convention. My hope now is that the Convention can be swiftly ratified and implemented." AOS particularly welcomed the importance accorded to maritime welfare agencies by the delegates. The Resolution Concerning Seafarers' Welfare, one of 17 supporting resolutions, recognised that, "given the global nature of the shipping industry, seafarers need special protection and that the provision and access to seafarers' welfare facilities is important in this regard". Furthermore, the text noted "that, because of the structural changes in the industry, seafarers have fewer opportunities to go ashore and, as a consequence, welfare facilities and services for seafarers are needed more than at any time". Speaking last night in Geneva, the International Labour Organisation's Director General, Juan Somavia, agreed, saying: "Welfare organisations and other non-governmental organisations working with seafarers also have a role in promoting this Convention. Monsignor Tomasi, the representative of the Holy See, pointed to the global network of non-profit organisations which are grouped together within the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), which have 526 seafarers' centres and 927 chaplains in 126 countries. There is clearly a role to be played by those organisations in promoting and implementing the Convention." Commodore Chris York responded: "I warmly welcome the ILO Secretary General's recognition of the role played by Christian welfare agencies, including the Apostleship of the Sea, in promoting the human rights and dignity of seafarers across the world." Source: AOS
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