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Beware Brazil - Seafarers - Shipowners

6 January, 2011

The International Labor Convention (ILO) C108 – Seafarers Identity Document adopted on 13 April 1958 allowed the countries that ratified it basically to issue Identity documents to seafarers of any nationality and that ratifying countries would not require visas for seafarers holding such an identity document. Thus seafarers were allowed shore leave and to join and leave their vessels without the need of visa formalities. Following ratification the C108 came into force on 19 February 1961. The Convention was ratified by 59 countries, the first being Tunisia on 26 October 1959 with 5 nations denouncing it.

Notably, one of the non signatories was the United States of America (USA) and this along with other requirements on the part of the USA has meant that many owners insist that seafarers joining their vessels must hold dual USA C1/D visas. This is an onerous burden on seafarers and particularly so for those entering the industry as a first time seafarer. Among other non signatories were China the Philippines.

On 19 June 2003, C185 was adopted by the by ILO member governments. This convention had an entry into force date of 19 February 2005 with the first signatory being France followed by Hungary on 17 April and 19 August of 2004 respectively. Unlike C108, under C185 ILO member countries can only issue a Seafarers Identity Document (SID) to its own nationals or to someone who have been granted the status of permanent residence in the country.

With the coming into being of C185, C108 was closed for ratification with the last two countries to do so being India and Turkey on 17 January and 7 February of 2005. Under the C185 ratification terms, countries ratifying it, automatically denounce C108 in other words they must no longer recognize the provision of C108. At the time of writing, 18 countries have ratified C185 with one making a declaration of applicability and no denouncers. Like C108 before it, C185 allows seafarers who have been issued an SID to enjoy shore leave as well as joining, transferring to from or leaving their vessels without the need of a visa, but subject to certain conditions.

Countries who ratified C108 still recognize SIDs issued under it and some may even recognize SID’s issued under C185, for example the United Kingdom as a visit to www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/ecg/seafarers will adequately demonstrate.

 However there are also flies in the ointment with Brazil being hailed as one of them. Beware the seafarer who goes on shore leave with their C108 SID as they are fined unless they hold a visa in their passport for doing so.

The writer understands that recently, a vessel with twelve Filipinos on board was fined USD 30,000 total or USD 2,500 each in Recife Brazil as they were not holding seafarers books issued by a state that has ratified the ILO Convention.

Considering that most people can very easily travel to a place of work even if it means crossing international borders without the need of visas, why is it that this civility is not accorded to those on whom the world is totally reliant upon for the movement of raw material and manufactured goods?  What would  they in power do, those, who in the so called interest of security make it so difficult for honest decent and professional people to go about their work  if seafarers refused to deliver such goods as, coal, oil or gas to fuel the power stations that in turn produce the energy to warm or cool the homes of their nation?

The YEAR OF THE SEAFARER reached its end and yet the few who are depended upon by so much of society are still not afforded some very basic human rights.

Jim Nicoll.

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