|Photo: Steven Bruijneel, www.dockwork.be|
Tight security is essential in ports and on ships – especially in the wake of 11 September 2001. But new security measures have also brought in new restrictions for seafarers.
What are the new restrictions?The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), introduced by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2004, obliges authorities to take measures to ensure the security of ships and port facilities. As a consequence, seafarers are now subject to tight security regulations in port that have cut down on their right to shore leave and access to shore-based welfare services.
Alongside this, the international seafarers’ identity document convention, C185, drawn up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and adopted in June 2003, aims to provide a more secure identity document for seafarers. Despite the high security of the document – which includes biometric data as well as other secure features – it has still to be ratified by all countries. This too affects seafarers' right to go ashore. The USA, for example, which hasn't ratified C185, insists that all seafarers visiting its ports must have a visa if they want to enjoy shore leave.
Are the new measures effective?Seafarers have been treated with suspicion under the tough new international security regime, facing armed guards on gangways and in port areas when they just want to enjoy the respite of time on shore after a run at sea.
Meanwhile, as ITF and others point out, there is another side to the international shipping industry that provides a potential legitimate cover for terrorists and their financial backers, as well as other criminals. While the unregulated Flag of Convenience (FOC) system continues to exist, it remains easy for terrorists and criminals to finance their activities, and move large sums of money around the world without raising suspicion.
Although the ISPS code says that states should pay “due cognisance” to seafarers’ need for shore leave and access to shore-based welfare facilities, the evidence is that shore leave has been denied – particularly in US ports – since ISPS came in. ITF is now monitoring seafarers' access to shore leave through its international reporting system.
What is the ITF doing?ITF is campaigning to protect seafarers' right to shore leave as essential to their rights as workers, and to minimise the effects of fatigue through work at sea and thus ensure maritime safety.
ITF believes that the best guarantees of security in the shipping industry are a stable, committed unionised workforce, along with regulation of shipping to close the loopholes of the Flag of Convenience system.
In the meantime, ITF is calling for widespread ratification of C185 and the introduction of effective national seafarers’ identity documents to enhance security, while improving the lives of seafarers.