The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) announces the results of its eleventh annual Seafarer Shore Leave Survey. Port chaplains from 29 United States ports collected data on seafarers’ shore leave during the first week in May. Although the data show a reduced percentage of ships reporting detained seafarers, they also indicate the continued challenges foreign seafarers face when trying to secure much-needed shore leave in United States ports.
The Shore Leave Survey indicates that of those seafarers denied shore leave, 81% were denied shore leave because of either a lack of visa or an invalid visa. The United States is the only major maritime nation that requires foreign seafarers to have a visa to go ashore. Other contributing factors included vessel restrictions, company restrictions and terminal restrictions. Although terminal access restrictions showed improvement from last year’s Survey, some terminals continue to charge seafarers exorbitant fees for simple escorts through terminals.
This year’s Survey highlights the continued need for the United States to ratify the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003 (ILO-185). This convention—adopted by 24 nations and in force since 2005—would provide seafarers a reliable biometric identification document, acting as a substitution for a visa. It would also improve security for maritime nations by providing identity credentials for all seafarers—not just those who obtain a visa. SCI urges seafarers, industry and labor to join in pressing the United States to ratify ILO-185 in order to strengthen maritime security and facilitate seafarers’ shore leave opportunities.
SCI conducts annual Seafarer Shore Leave Surveys to provide objective data to support its mission of advocacy for merchant mariners. Through education, legal advocacy and participation in national and international forums concerning seafarers’ rights, SCI is committed to improving laws and practices that both protect mariners and improve the safety and security of the maritime industry.