ILO considers developing an e-passport for seafarers
Technical upgrades to seafarers’ identity documents (SIDs) should improve shore leave opportunities, a meeting of employers, trades unions and government held at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva agreed on Monday.
The meeting discussed ways to improve take-up of ILO Convention 185 of 2003 on SIDs. The measure has been ratified by only 30 states, less than half the number that ratified its 1958 predecessor, C108. The main sticking point has been that C185’s technical standards are out of line with those used in other security documents.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said in a statement, “The convention has failed to achieve widespread implementation, in large part because the technical standards adopted have been superseded by the technologies and infrastructure now used for the issuance and verification of e-passports.”
The problem has been known about for some years. In 2012, International Shipping Federation director of employment affairs Natalie Shaw said, “Few [countries] are able to issue the new ILO ID cards and there are few machines available internationally that can read them.” She added, “The wide ratification of the convention would have materially assisted the welfare of seafarers as well as addressing the security concerns of port states.”
David Heidel, chair of the International Transport Federation’s Seafarers’ Section, said, “These latest recommendations, which would bring seafarers’ identity documents in line with e-passports, should help persuade states that ratification is sensible and in everyone’s best interests.”
To make them compatible with the security equipment used for e-passports, the SIDs would need to include facial image biometrics and a digital signature, stored on a contactless chip. The meeting recommended that the ILO’s governing body consider upgrading SIDs specifications.
Many non-ratifying countries do recognise SIDs issued in line with C185. The UK Home Office notes, “The UK agreed a new convention ILO 185 in 2003 and intends to ratify, if an effective method of implementation can be identified. To date, the UK has not ratified ILO 185.”
UK guidance for immigration officers sates, “To qualify for entry as a seaman under contract to join a ship in the UK, a passenger must provide a valid passport, seaman’s book or other acceptable travel document… Seafarers’ identity Documents (SIDs) issued in line with ILO Conventions No. 108 and 185 will generally meet the requirements.”
The text of ILO C185 is available at: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C185