The US Coast Guard has issued a new rule on seafarers’ access to maritime facilities. The move comes after a longstanding effort by the US Seafarers International Union (SIU) to improve access to shore leave and facilities.
Under the new rule, each owner or operator of a maritime facility regulated by the Coast Guard is required to provide seafarers and representatives of seafarers’ trade union and welfare organisations access between vessels moored at the facility and the facility gate, promptly and at no cost to the seafarer or other individuals.
The aim of the rule is to ensure that: “No facility owner or operator denies or makes it impractical for seafarers or other individuals to transit through the facility.”
SIU secretary-treasurer David Heindel, also chair of the ITF seafarers’ section, had called for greater access to shore leave and terminal access in testimony to the US Department of Transportation as far back as 2015, stating that “they’re crucial to maritime safety and the general wellbeing of mariners”. He called then for access to shore leave to be prompt and at no cost to the seafarer – points that have been accepted in the new rule. The rule also complies with the international convention on seafarer access to shore leave and facilities.
The Coast Guard said the new rule would enhance “the safety, health and welfare of seafarers, and the overall quality of life by allowing seafarers access to fundamental human services”.