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11 Jun 2018

Maritime Sector calls for specific Schengen visa procedures for seafarers

Maritime Sector calls for specific Schengen visa procedures for seafarersThe European and International Social Partners in Maritime Sector have issued a press release on a joint proposal on the ongoing efforts to facilitate traveling to and from the European Union for seafarers, supporting the amendments to the visa rules between the Member states.

According to the press release, the Social Partners in the Maritime Sector which are the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) believe that in order for the shipping industry to work efficiently, the facilitation of the movement of seafarers to the EU is essential.

Tim Springett, ECSA spokesperson on the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport (SSDC), said that the social partners in Maritime Sector welcome the fact that the proposal already recognized the specific needs of seafarers.

“However, we are concerned at the new requirements for obtaining multiple entry visas (MEVs) and the link being made with readmission cooperation. Applying such a link would restrict seafarers’ ability to obtain MEVs – which have proven to be of great assistance to them and their employers. It would also prevent ships from making crew changes in EU ports,” he said, concluding that seafarers’ ability to do their jobs and fulfill their essential role in facilitating seaborne trade to, within and from the EU should not depend on their nationality.

Whereas Mark Dickinson, ETF spokesperson on the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport, also believes that seafarers should be treated as a special category of professional travelers.

“Since the average length of seafarers’ contracts is eight months, the proposed requirement for obtaining MEVs is too strict and will be practically impossible for seafarers to fulfill. We consider it essential that the proposal is modified to avoid requirements that preclude the majority of seafarers from obtaining MEVs through the proposed ‘cascade approach”, he said.

Merchant ships transport around 90% of world’s trade, which is handled by seaports worldwide. Ports of the European Union remain among world’s busiest, the press release highlights, concluding that as such they serve as locations for thousands of seafarers to join and leave their ships and to take the shore leave that is crucial to their wellbeing.

Through their proposal ECSA, ETF, ICS and ITF encourage the Schengen Member States that have yet not ratified the ILO Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003 (No. 185) to do so as soon as soon as possible – in order to facilitate seafarer movement and shore leave further.

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