by Deborah G. Blanchard, Staff Attorney
The United States Coast Guard issued a nationwide ALCOAST Advisory on October 7 addressing seafarers' shore access issues as regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. The Advisory cites SCI's recent survey of ports nationwide, part of the Institute's regular examination of shore leave access issues. The Coast Guard posted SCI's Annual Shore Leave Survey summary to its website, which, according to last Wednesday's Advisory, "highlights some of the challenges that mariners are facing."
According to a recent review by the USCG Office of Maritime and International Law, the Coast Guard has the authority to mandate reasonable access in meeting its international and statutory obligations. While the notice commends the efforts of Captains of the Ports (COTPs) and local stakeholders to ensure shore leave access for seafarers, it observes that some instances unfortunately still exist where terminals deny access outright or facility or vessel operators' requirements prevent seafarers from leaving vessels, as evidenced by SCI's survey.
The Advisory recommends that COTPs use the five-year review of facility security plans process to ensure means of access before official approval. Even after approval, COTPs should verify that facilities comply with plans, and report any facilities that continue "to deny access to seafarers, charge exorbitant fees to provide access, greatly limit the hours for access, or institute other overly restrictive policies that discourage or refuse access."
SCI will continue to work with chaplains around the country and connect with the USCG about the ongoing access issues to ports.