Seafarers' rights to shore leave have been strengthened through amendments which enter into force globally on 1 January 2018, under the revised treaty which aims to achieve the smooth transit in ports of ships, cargo and passengers.
The amendments to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) also bring in a new requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange, including electronic data interchange (EDI), to transmit information related to maritime transport. This should be in place by 8 April 2019, with provision for a transitional period of at least 12 months during which paper and electronic documents would be allowed.
Use of a "single window" for data is encouraged, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication.
In addition, a number of standard forms, standards and recommended practices relating to stowaways have been updated.
The FAL Convention has 118 contracting States.
The amendment to the international standard on shore leave adds a new provision, on top of the requirement to allow crew ashore while the ship on which they arrive is in port. This new provision says there should be no discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin. Shore leave should be granted, irrespective of the flag State of the ship.
If any request is turned down, the relevant public authorities must provide an explanation to the crew member and the master, which the seafarer or master can request to be provided in writing.
Security and stowaways
The section on preventing stowaways is updated and expanded. National authorities are recommended to apply operational procedures equivalent to those in the IMO International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, to prevent stowaways accessing a ship.
A new standard requires governments, where appropriate, to incorporate legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways, attempted stowaways and any individual or company aiding a stowaway or an attempted stowaway with the intention to facilitate access to the port area, any ship, cargo or freight containers into their national legislation.
New FAL Forms
Updated FAL forms are in effect from 1 January 2018, covering IMO General Declaration; Cargo Declaration; Ship's Stores Declaration; Crew's Effects Declaration; Crew List· Passenger List and Dangerous Goods.
Three additional documents have been introduced for ships' clearance that may be required by the shore authorities – security-related information required under SOLAS, advance electronic cargo information for customs risk assessment, and advanced notification form for waste delivery to port reception facilities.
The FAL Convention, first adopted in 1965, aims to harmonize procedures for ship's arrival, stay and departure from port. It includes mandatory "Standards" and "Recommended Practices" on formalities, documentary requirements and procedures which should be applied on arrival, stay and departure to the ship itself, and to its crew, passengers, baggage and cargo.
The revised annex, which was developed following a comprehensive review of the treaty, will ensure the convention adequately addresses the shipping industry's present and emerging needs and serves to facilitate and expedite international maritime traffic. The objective is to prevent unnecessary delays to ships, and to persons and property on board.