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UN labor organization considers biometric ID for seafarers


Employers, trades unions and government met this week at the International Labor Organization in Geneva, where they discussed how implementing upgrades to sailors’ identity documents (SIDs) would improve shore leave opportunities, according to a report by IHS Maritime 360.

Attendees at the UN agency meeting talked about different methods to improve the adoption of ILO Convention 185 of 2003 on seafarers’ identity documents, a measure that has been approved by only 30 states.

Perhaps the greatest criticism about C185’s technical standards is that the guidelines are not consistent with those used in other security documents.

“The convention has failed to achieve widespread implementation, in large part because the technical standards adopted have been superseded by the technologies and infrastructure now used for the issuance and verification of e-passports,” International Chamber of Shipping said in a statement.

David Heidel, chair of the International Transport Federation’s Seafarers’ Section, believes that by effectively aligning seafarers’ identity documents with e-passports will help convince states that “ratification is sensible and in everyone’s best interests.”

In order to make them compatible with the security technology used for e-passports, the SIDs would require facial image biometrics and a digital signature which are stored on a contactless chip.

The meeting proposed that the ILO’s governing body ought to make changes to SIDs specifications.

Meanwhile, several of the countries that have not approved the security measures recognize SIDs issued in line with C185.

The UK guidelines for immigration officers state that in order “to qualify for entry as a seaman under contract to join a ship in the UK, a passenger must provide a valid passport, seaman’s book or other acceptable travel document… Seafarers’ identity Documents (SIDs) issued in line with ILO Conventions No. 108 and 185 will generally meet the requirements.”

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