Seafarers' Access to Shore Leave Improves Despite Stringent July 1 Security

Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Chaplains in 15 ports across the United States reported that new maritime security regulations effective as of July 1 show an overall reduction in instances of shore leave denial by private terminal operators. In addition, the survey also demonstrated that a lack of a US visa was still the reason why most foreign seafarers are denied shore leave. "A seafarer's right and elemental need for shore leave is clear, but security-based obstacles to shore leave have not gone away. The burden of getting a U.S. visa is still an issue for many seafarers," said Douglas B. Stevenson, Esq., Director of SCI's Center for Seafarers' Rights. The Center for Seafarers' Rights chose the week of 11 - 17 July 2004 for its third shore leave survey, in order to assess any possible effects of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and the Maritime Transportation Security Act (mandatory as of 1 July 2004). The Center conducted previous surveys in February 2003 and in October 2003. The 11 - 17 July 2004 survey showed one positive effect of the MTSA and ISPS in an overall reduction in instances of private terminal operators denying shore leave. In the previous two surveys, private terminal operators denial of shore leave to ships' crews served as one of the most common causes for crew detentions. Lack of crewmember visas provided the other most frequent reason. Only Boston and Philadelphia reported difficulties with private terminal operators denying shore leave to ships' crews. Chaplains did not report any instances denial of access to vessels through private terminals, although in some ports, chaplains experience difficulties in being allowed to board cruise vessels. Most private terminals appear to have implemented the MTSA and ISPS requirement that facility security plans must contain procedures for facilitating shore leave as well as access to ships by representatives of seafarers' welfare organizations. Port Chaplains from the following ports submitted information: Boston, MA; Brunswick, GA; Galveston, TX; Green Bay, WI; Lake Charles, LA; Morehead City, NC; Oakland, CA (Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco); Philadelphia, PA; Port Arthur, TX; Port Everglades, FL; Port Manatee, FL; Port of New York/New Jersey; Portland, ME; San Diego, CA; and Wilmington, DE (Wilmington, Oceanport, DE City). SCI's Center for Seafarers' Rights will continue to monitor the effects of security regulations, including shore leave denial, worldwide.
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