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Today is Thursday, February 21, 2019


Not Applicable

Shore leave for seafarers in the USA has always been a controversial matter. Many seafarers serving on internationally trading vessels calling at ports in the United States of America can never be assured of setting foot ashore to post a letter, make a phone call home or to do a bit of shopping. This is so because the USA’s non-recognition of ILO 108 of 1958 and very stringent visa requirements. It is likely that this situation will prevail, as the USA will also not ratify the ILO 185 convention, the replacement instrument for ILO 105.

Although not practiced today seafarers were required to undergo a short arm inspection, meaning to say that they had to display their manhood to USA Government Inspectors. It is said that this practice died a death when a planeload of USA businessmen were subjected to the same treatment on arrival in Paris. A lesson perhaps to be remembered.

It is legal for a seafarer on board a vessel calling at a USA port without a visa, should there be any such individuals on board, with the vessel likely undergoing delays during immigration clearance procedures. The reaction of ship owners, charterers and is that every seafarer joining their vessels is required to hold a C1 transit visa which allows a crew member to transit USA ports while on their way to a non USA destination. For a seafarer to be allowed ashore, even if being relieved or repatriated on medical grounds, a D visa is needed. Without the D visa, even in emergency repatriation cases, owners are subjected to onerous immigration costs.

Not surprisingly therefore they react by requiring not only a C1 visa but also a D visa generally known as C1/D. In a case where one seafarer holding C1/D visas has to be repatriated on medical grounds or for a family emergency, his relief must if he comes from a country whose nationals requires a visa must also hold C1/D visas. If none is available at short notice, the vessel can suffer a delay or the replacement must be a national of a country not subjected to USA visa requirements. There has been at least one instance of a seafarer who’s C1/D visa expired while in a USA ports. The day prior to expiry, he went ashore to make a phone call, next day he did the same, was apprehended and the vessel subjected to a heavy fine.

No one can deny that each nation has a right to impose measures it feels need to be applied in order to ensure the integrity of its own borders and security. However a twist in the tail of USA border security is the situation that has come about post 9/11 relating to tug crews engaged in inland waterways trading within the USA. As known to most, there is a delay between entering one end of a lock and exiting the other while water levels are adjusted. USA tug crews, pushing or towing USA cargo within the USA made use of the waiting time by going ashore to phone, take a walk or have some food, all of which are civilized things to do. Likewise, lock stops could used to affect safe crew relieving. Many locks no longer allow their fellow compatriots such privileges.

Now, chain link and barbed wire fences prohibit such activities leaving the fresh water sailors to improvise by using skiffs, wading through mud and the likes.
It would not have taken much thought to have gates in the fences to facilitate the safe passage of citizens going about their daily business. Likewise, local tourists who whiled away time watching locking and unlocking can no longer do so, also depriving the tug crew the opportunity of exchanging greetings and gossip. Think of the impression left on youngsters who witness this. Will it encourage them to seek a career as a fresh water sailor let alone a salty?

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