Universal Identity Card For Seafarers

International Labor Organization voted to adopt a universal seafarers identity document with fingerprints on it. It also makes provision for the facilitation of shore leave and transit and transfer of seafarers, including the exemption from holding a visa for seafarers taking shore leave.

The ILO will now develop a global inter-operable standard for the system, probably in co-operation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this follows an initiative already made by the Liberian Ship Registry, the second largest shipping registry in the world, to develop its own scheme for the 500,000 serving seafarers on its docket, which also follows the ICAO system.

To avoid the risk of an ID being issued to the wrong person, it requires ratifying member States to maintain a proper database available for international consultation by authorized officials and to have and observe adequate procedures for the issuance of IDs. Those procedures, which cover not only the security aspects but also the necessary safeguards for individual rights, including data protection, will be subject to transparent procedures for international oversight. The cards will be issued by countries.

The move was welcomed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation bridging a sensitive and fundamental balance between both human rights and nations need for security.

The decision demonstrates ILO’s continuing relevance as the forum where these issues must be decided. The urgent requirement now is for speedy ratification. Two recent G8 communiqués stressed the need for what has been formulated and hopefully the G8 nations will be the first to take this step. It would be particularly helpful if the USA were the first country to show what can be achieved.

The aim is to make sure terrorists cannot get onboard ships, It establishes a more rigorous identity regime for seafarers with the aim of developing effective security from terrorism and ensuring that the world’s 1.2 million seafarers will be given the freedom i.e. keeping in mind their human rights and for their professional activities and, in general, to facilitate international commerce.

Seafarers identity can be checked using a Data strip reader, which can read all of the fingerprints, text and photographs in one swipe, and then compare the fingerprint on the card with the seafarer’s fingerprint. LISCR started a trial scheme in December 2002, covering 2,000 seafarers earlier this year. The technology costs only $1 per card, and doesn’t need a computer network. The cards are being produced in the Philippines, India and the Port of Houston. With the heightened concerns about port security since the 9/11 attacks, a new seafarer’s identity document will be a substantial contribution to international security by helping to ensure that the identity of seafarers in ports, airports and aboard ships can be positively established through the most modern means available.

                                                                                                                                      – Darryl Rosario Release,
(with major inputs from

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