Obtaining a valid visa to go on shore, is an important aspect of seafarers’ wellbeing. Shore leave is a right for every seafarer and after spending many nights onboard it is paramount for maintaining good health. Seafarers’ right to shore leave is part of the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention Regulation 2.4, and of the IMO’s FAL Convention. The latter has been strengthened some years ago stipulating that “there should be no discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin”.
When ships are in ports, seafarers should, therefore, be able to easily leave the ship regardless of their nationality. Existing procedures within the EU, however, often impede on time granting of visas to seafarers. This has a major impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
A revision of the EU Visa Code – which will start to implement as of 2 February 2020 – did not consider seafarers to be treated as a special category of workers despite their demonstrated low-security risk profile and their international right to shore leave.
ETF, therefore, calls on EU Member States to ensure the implementation of the Code is adequately applied to seafarers. An Industry Statement supported by ETF, ITF, ECSA, ICS and CLIA was sent to EU governments and the European Commission. The document explains how the Code should be implemented to ensure seafarers benefit from some of the facilitations the Code affords, such as the timeframe for visa applications, the issuance of multiple-entry visas, and the issuance of visas on the border.
In addition, ETF refers to the need to ratify and implement ILO Convention 185 as an alternative tool to facilitate shore leave for seafarers while respecting the security requirements of port states. The implementation of the Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention, would greatly benefit the adequate application of seafarers’ right to shore leave.