One of the emerging hot issues from the NMSAC involves an issue near and dear to my heart. Seafarer’s Access to Shore Leave.
Specifically, we’ve been hearing reports of facilities refusing to let mariners off their vessels to go on shore leave (citing security reasons) or charging extrememly high fees for escorts/shuttle services.
NMSAC was tasked to research the issue and provide guidance to the USCG on the issue. You can read a review of the detailed report they issued here.
In addition, at our May 4 meeting, the Committee passed a resolution that states:
"The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC),
[B]Having received[/B], a Task Statement from the United States Coast Guard in June, 2008, requesting NMSAC to examine and quantify the problem of seafarers’ access to shore leave and to provide comments by September 18, 2008,
[B]Convened[/B] a Seafarers’ Access working group consisting of representatives that consisted of representatives from Seafarer’s Unions, Seafarer’s Welfare Organizations, Facility owner/operators, Facility Security Officers, and Shipowners Associations,
[B]Having met[/B] on September 18, 2008 to discuss, among other items, the findings of the working group,
[B]Recognizing that[/B], several international instruments, listed in the working group’s report, affirm seafarers’ rights to shore leave, visitors, and representatives of seafarers’ welfare and labour organizations,
[B]Noting that[/B], seafarers work and live on ships involved in domestic and international trade and that access to shore facilities and shore leave are vital elements of seafarers’ general well-being and, therefore, to the realization of safer seas and cleaner oceans and the free flow of commerce,
[B]Considering that[/B], due to the global nature of the shipping industry, seafarers need special protection, and security needs must be balanced with the rights of seafarers, and
[B]Noting that[/B], the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), requires that port facility plans address procedures for:
“facilitating shore leave for ship’s personnel or personnel changes, as well as access of visitors to the ship including representatives of seafarers’ welfare and labour organizations.”
[B]Resolves that[/B], the Coast Guard,
enforce the obligation of port facilities under the ISPS Code, the Maritime Transportation Security Act, and the relevant provisions of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations regarding seafarers’ access to shore leave, [B]and access for[/B] visitors, representatives of seafarers welfare and labor organization;
require each port facility to facilitate access for seafarers by requiring that every port facility security plan facilitate shore leave, crew changes, and access for visitors, in accordance with the ISPs Code and international instruments. Any costs for facilitating such access is a matter for the port facility; and,
convene a high-level group consisting of representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Seafarer’s Unions, Seafarer’s Welfare Organizations, Facility owner/operators, Facility Security Officers, and Ship-owners Associations to address all related seafarer access issues."
Since the NMSAC deliberations are of course always open to the public at large (except for issues that are considered classified), I’d be interested in your thoughts/opinions on this topic.
Additionally, are there any issues/concerns you’d like to see the committee address? please don’t hesitate to contact me directly!