July 15, 2004

Renewed push to loosen security restrictions on shore leave

A worldwide coalition of seafarers' trade unions and shipowners' organizations will join together in September to back both maritime security and the need to facilitate the provision of shore leave for seafarers.

IMO has chosen maritime security as the theme of this year's World Maritime Day, September 30, 2004.

"On that day," says a statement released by a coaltion of maritime organizations, "seafarers, their employers and their trade unions will come together to ask governments to allow mariners the hard earned rest that they enjoy from stepping ashore--sometimes after weeks confined on board ships at sea."

On September 30, seafarers' and shipowners' bodies will lobby governments, including that of the USA, plus the heads of the relevant United Nations agencies such as IMO and ILO.

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft explained: "The world of shipping is united in its concern that innocent seafarers are being treated like terrorists. Bizarrely, this is happening just as the new ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) Code has recognized their vital role at the heart of maritime security. Shore leave is essential for the physical and mental health of seafarers and for both maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment. We understand the very legitimate security concerns of the U.S.A., but will continue to explain to the many legislators there who are evaluating this issue with sympathy and understanding that it is in that nation's best interests to welcome seafarers and back them in their new responsibilities."

"The entire shipping industry is coming together to fight the corner of the thousands of seafarers around the world who are being denied the feeling of solid ground beneath their feet, sometimes after many weeks at sea," continued Cockroft. "They--and we--are committed to safe and secure seas, and intend to use World Maritime Day to draw attention to this important issue."

Chris Horrocks, Secretary General of the International Shipping Federation (ISF) commented: "One of the unresolved pinch points created by post 9/11 security concerns is the restrictions placed on the movement of seafarers. The most acute problems have been in the U.S. where, in addition to the frequent denial of shore leave for seafarers, some companies have also been required to pay for armed guards to prevent crew members from leaving the ship."

"In view of the security role that has been conferred on seafarers by the ISPS Code," continued Horrocks, "policies such as denial of shore leave are counter productive to security objectives, generating ill feeling amongst those who have such an important security role to play. We look forward to working with our trade union colleagues and will be using World Maritime Day to highlight these concerns."

The shore leave initiative involves the Round Table of international shipping associations, which includes BIMCO, ICS (the International Chamber of Shipping), INTERCARGO (The International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners) and INTERTANKO (The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners). These organizations together represent all segments of the industry including the owners and managers of all types of ships. The International Shipping Federation (ISF) is the international employers' organization for ship operators. Membership comprises national shipowners' associations in 34 countries representing the majority of the world's merchant shipping tonnage.The ITF represents 604 trade unions in 137 countries.

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