Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Biometric Identity Extended to a Quarter of the World's Freight Shipping Crews

Philippines Ratifies Convention 185 This Week
Shipping News Feature

PHILIPPINES – WORLDWIDE – Nine years after it was first mooted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, Convention No. 185 has finally been ratified by the Republic of the Philippines. This now means that Filipino seamen, who represent around 25% of the labour force on merchant and other shipping ranging from general cargo and bulk freight vessels to tugboats and passenger liners, will now carry biometric identification designed to eliminate fraud and identity theft and ensure fair treatment of crews.

Over a quarter of a million seamen from the Islands can be afloat on the world’s merchant ships at any one time and are designated as sea based migrant workers. The nation have proved popular and durable staff for virtually every major maritime employer globally and with the adoption of the Seafarers’ Identity Document (SID), which follows the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines on machine readable travel documents (ICAO Document 9303), port authority and border control officials are able to verify the seafarers’ identity by the comparison of fingerprints to the biometric information on their SID, and also by comparing the seafarers’ biometric information with details held on the Issuing Authority’s database at any hour of any day.

Since the adoption of Convention No. 185 authorities have been ensuring that around 3,000 world wide ports and border transit offices in regular use when switching crews are equipped to verify seafarers’ identities. The intention of the ILO is to issue SID’s to the two million plus workers associated with global maritime trade. Commenting on the official acknowledgement that the Philippines has signed up to the Convention, ITF seafarers section secretary Jon Whitlow said:

“This is significant news. This move by the world's largest crew supply country sends a strong signal to nations worldwide that seafarers' rights to shore leave and safe transit must be respected. At the same time the intention of the convention to enhance security has also been carried forward."

Maritime security specialist Hassan M. Eltaher, President of Marine Canada commented:

“As for ratification of ILO Convention No.185 by the Philippines, which according to Labor and Employment Secretary Baldoz will enable ‘Filipino seafarers to move more easily around the world with this international identity document’, it is definitely high time that this has happened. The more I am on ships, or anything that floats nowadays, the more I see all these congenial and hard-working Filipinos. For the untrained eye you can always confuse them and other people from the region. The ratification of No. 185 is good for maritime security, and equally good for the Philippine overseas job market.”