Ad Hoc Tripartite Maritime Committee for the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003 (No. 185)

Feb 16, 2016


Douglas B. Stevenson, Esq.
Chairman, ICMA Standing Delegation to the ILO

Delivered February 10, 2016

Thank you. Congratulations to Captain Thomas Heinan, Joe Cox, and Dave Heindel on their elections.

ILO-185 is a very important to the International Christian Maritime Association for its potential to protect seafarers and to enhance opportunities for their shore leave

One of the ICMA member organizations has for several years conducted surveys of seafarers’ shore leave in the United States. In the most recent survey conducted in May 2015, port chaplains from ICMA member organizations collected data on seafarers’ shore leave in 27 United States ports. Four hundred twenty-nine vessels and 9,495 seafarers from 45 different countries were surveyed during the survey week. Seventeen percent (17%), of the 9,495 seafarers surveyed were denied shore leave. Of the 17% who were denied shore leave, 79% were detained on board their vessels because they didn’t possess a crewmember visa. Eighty percent (80%) of those seafarers who were detained on board their vessels for lack of visa were serving on vessels where the Maritime Labour Convention was in force. They were serving on ships that presumably had been inspected by their flag state for compliance with Maritime Labour Convention Standard A., which obligates shipowners to pay for seafarers’ visas.

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as currently implemented does not appear to be accomplishing its objective stated in Regulation 2.4.2. of promoting seafarers’ shore leave.

Because of the shortcoming of the MLC, 2006, wider ratification and implementation of the Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention (ILO-185) takes on greater importance in facilitating shore leave in those countries that continue to require seafarers to have visas for shore leave.

Wider ratification of ILO-185 would also greatly enhance seafarers’ and nations’ security by providing seafarers with a secure document that positively verifies their status as legitimate professional seafarers, who, by the way, have demonstrated that they are not security risks.

In this afternoon’s discussions there have been many references to standards followed by the aviation industry. If we are to adopt aviation standards in the maritime industry, we should also make sure that we accord ship’s crews the same status and respect accorded to air crews. In the United States, both air crews and ships’ crews are required to have the same D-1 crewmember visa, but they are treated very differently at the border. Air crews are provided special speedy immigration lines and special treatment at airports while seafarers are often treated with suspicion at seaports. I have never heard of a commercial air crew being denied shore leave.

ICMA is hopeful that seafarers, who are so vital to every nation’s economy, will be accorded at a minimum the same status and respect given to air crews. ILO-185 provides an important step in that direction.