Seafarers who fail to obtain shore leave in the US are generally stuck on their ships by visa issues, according to a new survey.
The issue was highlighted by the 14th annual Shore Leave Survey, released on 28 July by the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights.
But the US’s requirement for non-nationals to obtain crewmember visas to apply for shore leave conflicts with the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), said SCI.
The convention, of which the US is a member, prohibits visa requirements for seafarers, according to the centre.
“Shore leave is not only critical for the health and well-being of seafarers but also for productive and safe vessel operations,” said SCI.
“Seafarers live out their professional lives on board a ship. They work, live, eat, sleep, and socialise with the same crew for the duration of their contract. Their only respite from these confines comes at the opportunity for shore leave.”
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On 23-29 May, the study surveyed nearly 9,500 seafarers on more than 400 vessels in 27 ports and found that 1,642 (17.3%) were denied US shore leave. Of these excluded mariners, 1,300 (79%) said they were turned down because they lacked a valid visa.
On 29 December 2014, the US Coast Guard proposed a rule obliging marine terminals to provide timely transit at no cost to seafarers.
About 380 seafarers were identified in the survey as being denied shore leave by terminal access issues, which the proposed rule could resolve, said SCI.