Seafarers’ legal right to shore leave strengthened

Seafarers’ rights to shore leave have been increased through amendments to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), which entered into force globally on January 1st 2018.

The amendment to the international standard on shore leave adds the provision which prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin. Shore leave should be granted, irrespective of the flag state of the ship. This is in addition to the general requirement to allow crew ashore when the ship on which they arrive is in port.

If a request for shore leave is turned down, the relevant public authorities must provide an explanation to the crew member and the master, which the seafarer or master can request to be provided in writing.

The amendments also introduce a requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange, including electronic data interchange (EDI), to transmit information related to maritime transport.

This is scheduled to be in place by April 8th 2019, with provision for a transitional period of at least 12 months, during which paper and electronic documents will be allowed.

The IMO said that the use of a “single window” for data would enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication.

A number of standard forms, standards and recommended practices relating to stowaways have been updated.

National authorities are recommended to apply operational procedures equivalent to those in the IMO International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, to prevent stowaways accessing a ship.

A new standard requires governments to incorporate legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways, attempted stowaways and any individual or company aiding a stowaway or an attempted stowaway with the intention to facilitate access to the port area, any ship, cargo or freight containers into their national legislation.

Three additional documents have been introduced for ships’ clearance that may be required by the shore authorities – security-related information required under SOLAS, advance electronic cargo information for customs risk assessment, and advanced notification form for waste delivery to port reception facilities. The FAL Convention has 118 contracting states.