Seafarer's Access to Shoreleave (update)

After my last post concerning the restrictions mariners were encountering in trying to get off their vessels, the Coast Guard entered into a fairly in depth discussion with the maritime industry. The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee weighed in extensively, as did the Seaman’s Church. I also personally heard from a number of you expressing varying opinions on the issue.

The result? See for yourself:

If you’re like me, these messages are really difficult to decipher into plain old English. Personally, I have a hard time understanding why the Coast Guard insists issuing them in all in capital letters, but I digress…

Let me cull out the key element of this message and explain what it means, from paragraph 1:

“…of particular note, the Office of Maritime and International Law (CG-0941) recently completed a legal review on the issue of seafarer access and determined that the Coast Guard in meeting its international and statutory obligation has the authority to mandate MTSA regulated facilities provide reasonable access to seafarers…”

[COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]As innocuous as this sounds, one of the biggest impediments to the Coast Guard in enforcing the rights of seafarers to go ashore, was a legal opinion that such enforcement could be considered a violation of the 5th amendment, also known as the “takings clause”. Basically, when the MTSA rules were first propagated, the Coast Guard felt it did not have the legal standing to force privately owned facilities to provide access to seafarers. Obviously this was a huge source of contention for the proponents of seafarer access. As a result of the recent discussion and debate with industry as well as a better understanding of how the MTSA and ISPS Code is implemented and an in depth legal analysis, the CG has decided that enforcement of the seafarer access does not constitute a takings.
[COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]With the biggest road block removed, the local CG commands will be ensuring that an MTSA regulated facility “…specifically describes how coordination of crew change outs, shore leave and visits to the vessels by union and welfare organization representatives will be accomplished by the facility in accordance with 33 CFR 105.200 (B)(9)” within their facility security plan.
It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t opening up the flood gates for mariners to go ashore. Foreign mariners calling on US ports still must have a valid seaman’s visa type C1 (for entry by sea) or C1/D1 for entry by sea and air (by air for repatriations). But, for those mariners that have a valid Visa, the facility can no longer prevent (or make it prohibitive) their ability to go ashore.

[COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]I want to thank all the people who were willing to express their opinions and provide us with the information we needed to make an informed decision on how to correct this issue. I’d also like to thank Captain John Konrad and the staff at gCaptain for allowing us to use their website in our information gathering efforts.
As always, Comments are welcome!!