Last week, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) published results of its Annual Shore Leave Survey with data gathered from 22 United States seafarers’ centers. SCI asked port ministries in the United States to participate in the survey, keeping records of seafarers’ shore leave detentions and chaplains' access through terminals from May 1-7, 2010. Douglas B. Stevenson, Director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, presented the results from the 2010 examination at the Joint Conference of Harbor Safety Committees and Area Maritime Security Committees in Jersey City on June 9 and at the US-Consultative Shipping Group (CSG) Dialogue in Washington, DC on June 15.
The Report cites that, of the 337 ships seafarers’ centers reported visiting, 63 ships had at least one crewmember who was denied shore leave, or approximately 1 in every 5 ships. Reasons for shore leave denial include seafarers’ lack of visa, terminal restrictions, constraints imposed by ship management, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detentions.
With TWIC implementation in effect nationwide for more than a year, SCI also asked seafarers’ centers to report on consequences of the program requiring government-issued biometric identity cards for unescorted access to secure areas within United States ports. This year, only 3 ports (down from 14 last year) recounted ongoing issues with access for TWIC reasons.
In the past, data gleaned from SCI’s Shore Leave Reports has provided important information, helping to improve shore leave opportunities for seafarers and chaplains’ access through terminals. The United States Coast Guard relied on information contained in last year’s shore leave survey to justify, in part, the policy changes contained in a directive to ensure that facilities provide reasonable access for seafarers. According to the 2010 Report, it appears that last October’s directive had its intended effect. The report also notes, however, that some terminals—particularly petroleum product terminals—continue to place obstacles to seafarers’ and chaplains’ access through their terminals.