by Samuel L. Fuller, Intern, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
Now in its tenth year, the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Seafarer Shore Leave Survey continues to shed light on an array of issues affecting merchant mariners’ access to shore leave while in US ports.
During the week of May 1-7, SCI asked port chaplains at seafarers’ centers in twenty-six US ports to record their interactions with seafarers. In addition to providing an up-to-date report of the status of restrictions to shore leave, the data collected aids SCI in its ongoing mission to improve law and practices affecting seafarers. “This report has been very influential in shaping public and industry policy,” says Douglas B. Stevenson, Director of the Center for Seafarers’ Rights, “it provides perspective into a seldom discussed aspect of the maritime industry.”
SCI will share the survey results with members of industry and government, and published reports are available to the public through SCI’s website.
As in years past, the denial of visas is the largest obstacle to seafarers’ shore leave in this country. However, policies by both ship and shore industries constitute a large portion of current restrictions. For example, some ship management companies prohibit Myanmar seafarers from going ashore in the US, and some port terminal operators continue to require seafarers to obtain TWIC certified terminal escorts at an exorbitantly expensive rate.
Of special significance to this year’s survey is newly enacted Section 811 of the 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Act, which requires all port facilities to provide a convenient, “no cost” system for seafarers to depart their vessel while in port. The 2011 Shore Leave Survey provides an initial gauge of compliance with this regulation and potential areas of improvement moving forward.