ILO Meeting of Experts Concerning Convention No. 185

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This week the Rev. Ken Peters (MtS) and Mr. Douglas Stevenson (SCI), went to the International Labour Organization in Geneva to represent ICMA in further discussions about ILO 185. Below is the text of Mr. Stevenson’s statement:

International Labour Organization
Meeting of Experts concerning Convention No. 185
(Geneva 4-6 February 2015)
Statement by Douglas B. Stevenson

International Christian Maritime Organization
4 February 2015

Thank you Madam Chair for giving the International Christian Maritime Association to speak at this important meeting of experts. Congratulations on your election to the Chair.
The world’s economy and prosperity depends on merchant shipping and merchant shipping depends on seafarers.
According to UNCTAD there are 39,770 ships over 1,000 gross tons in the world’s merchant fleet. The fleet is expected to grow to 69,000 ships by the end of the decade. The need to recruit and retain enough skilled seafarers to operate the vessels needed to sustain commerce remains shipping’s biggest challenge. All of us who depend on shipping must help make seagoing careers attractive options for skilled men and women.
The MLC, 2006 and ILO-185 are designed to improve seafarers’ living and working conditions and, if widely implemented, will go a long way towards making seagoing careers attractive.
The MLC, 2006 recognizes the importance of seafarers’ shore leave and their having access to onshore seafarers’ welfare facilities and services. The International Christian Maritime Association’s 28 member organizations operating in 126 countries provide the vast majority of the onshore seafarers welfare facilities and services contemplated by the MLC, 2006.
ILO-185 provides the means to facilitate seafarers’ shore leave and access to onshore seafarers’ welfare facilities and services. The International Christian Maritime Association, therefore, strongly applauds and supports efforts by nations and social partners to develop measures that will encourage wider ratification and implementation of ILO-185.
An important feature of ILO-185 is Article 6, which provides for countries to allow shore leave to seafarers holding valid Seafarer Identity Documents – without their having to also have a visa.
One of the International Christian Maritime Association member organizations has, since 2002, conducted annual surveys of shore leave denials in the United States. According to the data collected in recent years by port chaplains in ports around the United States, about 10% of the foreign seafarers on ships arriving at United States ports were denied shore. Of the 10% who were denied shore leave, about 90% of them were denied shore leave because they did not have a visa. (The United States requires seafarers and aircrews to have a D-1 crewmember visa as a condition of entry.)
If anyone wants a copy of the most recent survey please let me or Ken Peters know.
Ratification of ILO-185 by the United States could certainly improve shore leave opportunities for seafarers in United States ports – provided that the seafarers have valid Seafarers Identity Documents.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, few nations have issued to their seafarers valid Seafarers’ Identity Documents that could serve as a substitute for a visa.
The International Christian Maritime Association is hopeful that this Meeting of Experts will recommend amendments to ILO-185 that will facilitate its implementation.
In addition to facilitating shore leave and access to onshore seafarers welfare facilities and services, ILO-185 has the potential to greatly enhance security for seafarers and shipping. ILO-185 Seafarer Identity Documents will verify that the holders are legitimate seafarers who are entitled to the recognition and respect they deserve.
ILO-185 Seafarers Identity Documents will also identify seafarers as vital members of maritime security teams ,and they will help protect them from others who might pose as seafarers to do them and others harm.
ILO-185 is a very important convention for seafarers. It has the potential to provide seafarers greater protection and recognition, and it will help make seagoing careers more attractive options for skilled men and women by facilitating their access to onshore welfare facilities and shore leave.
The International Christian Maritime Association is hopeful that this Meeting of Experts will recommend measures that will encourage more countries to ratify ILO-185 and enable countries to implement it without reducing security or seafarers’ protections.
The International Christian Maritime Association delegation is here to assist the Meeting of Experts in any way that it can.