European and International Social Partners in the Maritime Sector call for specific procedures for seafarers to obtain Schengen visas

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European and International Social Partners in the Maritime Sector call for specific procedures for seafarers to obtain Schengen visas

The European and International Social Partners in the Maritime Sector; the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) support the ongoing efforts to facilitate seafarers’ travel to and from the EU through amendments to the visa rules between Member States.

“For the shipping industry to function efficiently and for the safeguarding of decent living and working conditions for seafarers, it is essential to facilitate their movement into the EU to join ships, to be repatriated and to take shore leave without undue hindrance”, said Tim Springett, ECSA spokesperson on the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport (SSDC). “We welcome that the proposal already recognises the specific needs of seafarers. However, we are concerned at the new requirements for obtaining multiple entry visas (MEVs) and the link being made with readmission cooperation. Applying such a link would restrict seafarers’ ability to obtain MEVs – which have proven to be of great assistance to them and their employers. It would also prevent ships from making crew changes in EU ports. Seafarers’ ability to do their jobs and fulfil their essential role in facilitating seaborne trade to, within and from the EU should not depend on their nationality’’, he added.

‘We believe that seafarers should be considered as a special category of professional travellers. Seafarers need visas for work-related reasons and have a very low risk profile,” said Mark Dickinson, ETF spokesperson on the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport. ”Since the average length of seafarers’ contracts is eight months, the proposed requirement for obtaining MEVs is too strict and will be practically impossible for seafarers to fulfil. We consider it essential that the proposal is modified to avoid requirements that preclude the majority of seafarers from obtaining MEVs through the proposed ‘cascade approach”, he concluded.

Approximately 90% of the world’s trade is transported by merchant ships and handled by ports worldwide. The EU’s ports are among the world’s busiest, reflecting the economic strength of the region as an exporter and importer of raw materials, components and finished goods. As such they serve as locations for thousands of seafarers to join and leave their ships and to take the shore leave that is essential to their wellbeing.

Merchant ships are required to be sufficiently and adequately crewed at all times. Seafarers reside all over the world, and large numbers of them work on ships that never call at ports in the countries where they live. Air travel to join ships and to return home after completing a tour of duty is an integral part of many seafarers’ lives, as they travel to ships to relieve colleagues who have finished their service and are due to return home.

Source: ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Associations)

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