The United States Coast Guard has started the process of making a new regulation that would greatly benefit seafarers. Under this possible new rule, port facility operators would be required to offer unimpeded access between the vessel and the facility’s security gate at no charge to the seafarer. Right now, port facilities can make their own rules about how someone on board gets access to the gate. Seafarers are often not allowed off their vessel because of port facility’s rules. All seafarers are fully vetted by Customs and Border Patrol before they arrive on our shore. Not all seafarers arrive with a visa for a variety of reasons, but for those seafarers who do meet all the requirements for shore leave, the only thing stopping them is the restricted by physical distance between their ship and the security gate.
Of the 31 terminals that SCI serves in our region, only 2 provide transportation covering that distance. The other 29 depend on our drivers and vans to give seafarers access to life outside of the terminal. And while we have 5 vans running 14 hours a day, and we do our best to get to all of the crews, we have our limits. Our vans can only be one place at once, and sometimes that limits when seafarers can have shore leave, how long they can stay out, or where they can go. If this rule were in place, and seafarers had free access to the gate provided by the facility, they would have so much more flexibility. If a seafarer has access to the security gate, from there he can call a cab or even walk to destinations nearby. The seafarer is better able to access shore leave on a timetable that fits his schedule. We at SCI are the only ones escorting seafarers and we have taken on a financial burden. A large percent of our resources as a small non-profit are spent on gas, car insurance and upkeep of our vans. We have less time and resources to provide the emotional and spiritual support seafarers need.
Implementation of this rule would go a long way in improving the lives of seafarers while they are in American ports. The Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia and South Jersey is in full support of this potential Coast Guard Regulation and we are prepared to have our voice heard. Fr. Stube travels to Washington D.C. to attend a public hearing on this issue on January 23rd and we need your help! If you support this regulation, please consider submitting your comments here!