IMO Stresses Seafarer Rights during ISPS

The IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is emphasizing the proper balance between the needs of security, the protection of human rights of seafarers and port workers, and the requirement to maintain the safety and still work the ships. The United States has come under fire for its elimination of the blanket crew list visa previously issued to registered seafarers with proper identification.

Seafarers must now apply for an individual visa before the ship arrives in the U.S., and must make a personal appearance before a consular official.

Aside from the visa being time-consuming, the approximately $100 cost of each visa makes it exorbitant for many seafarers who make less than $500 per month. To make matters worse, the U.S. is expected not to ratify the new seafarers' identity document convention adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) last year, despite being the originator of a request to revise the original convention.

In a recent letter to the U.S. State Department, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) appealed for greater flexibility on the issue of shore leave and vessel access, including the acceptance of the new ILO seafarers' identity document.

David Cockroft, General Secretary of the ITF, wrote in his letter to the State Department, "The requirement that seafarers' secure individual visas is causing great hardship as many of them come from developing countries. The cost for visas is not unsubstantial. For those not able to demonstrate that they would actually be calling at a U.S. port, their application is turned down. The result usually is that the seafarer becomes unemployable."