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New Seafarer Access Rules Impact Ports and Terminals

From the Desk of CAPT Jeff Monroe, MM, AMPE


Owners and operators of ports and maritime intermodal facilities (terminals) in the US are being reminded of the approaching deadlines for a new rule designed to improve seafarers' access to shore leave. The US Coast Guard has issued the Seafarers' Access to Maritime Facilities Final Rule which became effective on 1 May, is now in force as of 1 June 2020.

Under the rule, each owner or operator of a maritime facility regulated by the Coast Guard under the Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 must provide all seafarers, pilots, representatives of licensed and unlicensed seafarers’ unions and welfare organizations (such as Missions to Seafarers), and faith-based seafarer services access between vessels moored at the facility and the facility gate. The access must be considered timely and at no additional cost to the seafarer or other individuals. The Coast Guard's Washington DC Office of Port and Facility Compliance says that access procedures must be documented in the Facility Security Plan for each facility and approved by the local Captain of the Port by 3 February 2020.

The access procedures are outlined in 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 105.237, System for seafarers’ access, must be documented in the Facility Security Plan (FSP) for each facility and approved by the local Coast Guard Captain of the Port. According to the USCG, approximately 2,500 facilities nationwide are affected by these requirement. Specifically, this final rule puts into effect Section 811 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 which demands owners and operators to ensure that mariners are provided secure, no-cost options to sail through MTSA-regulated facilities in order to access fundamental human services, and to visit with family and friends.

The rule is the result of a longstanding campaign by the US Seafarers International Union (SIU) to improve access to shore leave and facilities.

When the US Coast Guard published the rule in the Federal Register on 1 April 2019, the USCG stated “This final rule is important because mariners may be at sea for days, weeks, or even months as part of their employment on a ship, and shore leave is a critical part of maintaining their health, welfare, morale, and overall quality of life.” The recent Pandemic has impacted crew changes which is a separate consideration and not addressed in this rule beyond seafarer, etc., access.

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