February 18 - The International Shipping Federation (ISF), which represents maritime employers globally, is calling on port states to facilitate the right of seafarers to shore leave, in line with international treaty obligations.

The ISF has made a proposal in a submission to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Facilitation Committee, which next meets in April to consider its current review of the IMO Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL).  

The FAL Convention includes a blanket prohibition on port states requiring seafarers to obtain visas in order to enjoy shore leave.

However, in a world of heightened security concerns and immigration issues, the ability of seafarers to exercise this right is increasingly being challenged, with visas now required in the USA and Australia.  

Problems are still being reported of seafarers not being able to leave their ships without visas within the Schengen area of the European Union.  Problems also exist in Brazil, Singapore, South Africa and other countries.
"This causes serious difficulties for seafarers - especially those operating in tramp trades that may not have the opportunity to apply for a visa in advance." said ISF director of employment affairs, Natalie Shaw.