Survey shows majority of seafarers denied shore leave didn't have visas

The following is the text of a news release from the Seamen's Church Institute:

(NEW YORK) — Shore leave significantly improves seafarers’ health and the safe and efficient operation of a vessel. The Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights collected data pertaining to seafarers’ access to shore leave for the 13th year in a row as part of its annual Seafarer Shore Leave Survey, asking port welfare workers in 27 ports across the United States to monitor seafarers’ shore leave on vessels they visited during the last week in May. Results show the large majority of seafarers denied shore leave are denied it because they lack visas.

This year’s survey was the first SCI has conducted since the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) came into force. The MLC 2006 was in force in 37 countries during the survey week. Standard A1.4 Section 5(b) of the MLC 2006 requires shipowners to pay for seafarers’ visas. Furthermore, flag states must verify shipowners’ compliance with the MLC 2006 recruitment and placement requirements, which include Standard A1.4 Section 5(b), before issuing a maritime labor certificate. Ships registered in countries that have ratified the MLC 2006 must have a maritime labor certificate before they can sail. The survey showed that flag states are not enforcing the MLC 2006 requirement for shipowners to pay for visas. Approximately 79 percent of the seafarers denied shore leave for lack of visa served on ships registered in countries where the MLC 2006 was in force.

Even for some seafarers who have obtained visas, gaining access to areas outside the port can be expensive and strenuous. Many seafarers must rely on transport from local sources. Seafarer welfare organizations, like SCI, frequently provide free-of-charge escorted transportation, but at times terminal operators restrict access by these organizations to the docked vessels. Not all ports have seafarer welfare organizations; and in some terminals, seafarers must pay a private company — usually at great cost — to escort them instead.

The results of SCI’s Seafarer Shore Leave Survey document terminal policies that affect chaplains’ or seafarers’ access and other restrictions preventing shore leave. The report also offers observations on how to alleviate some of the issues. Download the complete survey results at

About SCI

Founded in 1834 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church, though nondenominational in terms of its trustees, staff and service to mariners, the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York & New Jersey (SCI) is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America. Annually, its chaplains visit thousands of vessels in the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Oakland, and along 2,200 miles of America’s inland waterways and into the Gulf of Mexico. SCI’s maritime education facilities provide navigational training to nearly 1,600 mariners each year through simulator-based facilities located in Houston and Paducah, Ky. The institute and its maritime attorneys are recognized as leading advocates for merchant mariners by the U.S. government, including the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and maritime trade associations.

By Professional Mariner Staff