List of Nations to Ratify ILO 185 Grows

April 2010

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In late February, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that Russia had become the latest nation to ratify a convention known as the Seafarers Identity Document No. 185 (typically abbreviated as ILO 185). This brings the number of ratifications of the convention up to 17.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) pointed out that so far in 2010, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina also have ratified ILO 185. “The ratification shows that this convention is still relevant,” said ITF Seafarers’ Section Secretary Jon Whitlow. “This should encourage other countries to do likewise.”

SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, who serves as first vice chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, said the recent ratifications are bittersweet in that they once again indirectly call attention to the fact that neither the U.S. nor Canada has signed off on the agreement.

“This convention is important to all mariners, not just U.S. mariners,” Heindel stated. “When our seafarers go abroad, it’s critical that we have an ILO 185-compliant document. And when seafarers of other nations sail to our shores we should not further complicate their profession by restricting their ability go ashore. To that end, America should ratify this important convention immediately.”

According to the ILO, the Seafarers Identity Documents Convention of 2003 (No. 185) revises the earlier Seafarers Identity Documents Convention, 1958 (No. 108). The new convention, among other things, covers shore leave and is aimed at helping enable mariners to go ashore in foreign ports.

“The much-needed changes of 2003 relate to the identification of the seafarers,” the agency pointed out. “They have radically enhanced the security features as well as the uniformity of the Seafarers Identity Document (SID) that countries are required to issue to their seafarers and lay down minimum requirements with respect to the countries’ processes and procedures for the issuance of SIDs.”

In late February, the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department executive board approved a statement on this topic. The resolution in part reads: “ILO 185 … calls for nations to use state-of-the-art technology to verify the identity of mariners documented by their countries.

These documents would be audited every five years. They would eliminate the need for visas for shore leave.

“Maritime unions throughout the world, including those belonging to the MTD, believe such a technologically advanced document would provide greater security for ports while allowing mariners to disembark vessels when in port. However, despite being the originator of the proposal in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States – as well as Canada – is among the nations who have failed to ratify ILO 185….

“The MTD and its unions believe [ILO 185] deserves support and ratification. The United States and Canada should take the lead in doing so in order that mariners around the world will have safer and better working conditions.”

The International Labor Organization is a United Nations agency self-described as “bringing together governments, employers and workers of its member states in common action to promote decent work throughout the world.”

The ITF has more than 750 affiliated unions representing more than 4.6 million transport workers in 154 countries.

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