ILO Group Recommends SID and E-Passport Alignment

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 12, 2015

The widespread adoption of the ILO's 2003 Convention on Seafarer's Identity Documents (SIDs) requires technical upgrades, employers, trade unions, and government officials meeting at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva said Monday.

ILO Convention 185 was designed to standardize SIDs in the digital age and facilitate the entry of foreign seafarers holding SIDs into foreign nations for shore leave, transfer and transit. But the measure has only been ratified by 30 states, less than half the number that ratified C108, it's 1958 predecessor, IHS Maritime 360 reported. 

The tripartite meeting at the ILO delivered recommendations to spur widespread ratification of the convention and implementation of SID documents, which included requiring SID technical specifications be brought in line with e-passport standards, which are already widely used. 

Making SIDs compatible with e-passport equipment would require SIDs to include facial image biometrics and a digital signature stored on a contactless chip. Both shipping worker representatives and shipowners encouraged the ILO to align SID standards with e-passport technologies.

“ILO 185 has two key aims: to uphold security and allow the deserved and necessary passage of seafarers on shore leave and in transit," International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) seafarers’ section chair David Heindel said in a press release. "However, its take up has been underwhelming. These latest recommendations, which would bring seafarers’ identity documents in line with e-passports, should help persuade states that ratification is sensible and in everyone’s best interests.”

 “The principal concern of ship owners with respect to ILO 185 has always been that it should help to ensure seafarers’ access to shore leave and their ability to join or leave a vessel in a foreign country," Joe Cox, President of the Chamber of Shipping of America and the Shipowners' spokesperson for the meeting said. "But technical issues have clearly prevented widespread implementation by governments. In addressing some of these issues, the meeting’s recommendations have outlined a potential way forward that could make it easier for governments to ratify and implement this important Convention.

The recommendations will be considered by a future meeting of the ILO Governing Body. 

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