The European Community of Shipowners’ Associations, representing the interests of the national shipowners’ associations of the EU and Norway, and CLIA Europe, representing Europe’s cruise industry, welcome the proposal for a revision of the EU Visa Code as a first important development for visa facilitation for seafarers. Seafarers are a critical part of Europe’s shipping sector. While cruise liners employ thousands of crew per ship, merchant shipping have fewer crew per ship in many more ships.
Some of the new measures the European Commission proposes will go a long way towards removing administrative burdens and facilitating the entry of seafarers into the Schengen area. This is certainly the case for the new provisions extending the validity period of multiple-entry visas, shortening the time period to process applications, and eliminating existing requirements to lodge them in person. Not only will these measures bring certainty to shipping companies when finalising work contracts; they will also be highly beneficial to seafarers that spend long periods of time at high sea and need flexibility in order to properly carry out their work.
As a global industry, shipping is bound by international legislation adopted by several international organisations, including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The introduction of a definition of ‘seafarer’ in the Visa Code explicitly mentioning the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention will tie the EU legislation to the international regulatory framework. This will help ensure that all staff working on-board ships in any capacity are duly covered by the Visa Code and benefit from the various procedural facilitations in place.
Another aspect of the new Regulation that ECSA and CLIA Europe will closely follow are the proposals to extend the period for lodging applications for seafarers.
ECSA and CLIA Europe wish to affirm their support to the European Commission on this revision. Both organisations will engage with the European Parliament and EU member states throughout this legislative process in order to look after the interests of seafarers.
Robert Ashdown, Secretary General of CLIA Europe, said: “Our crew are a fundamental and highly valued part of our guests’ experience. We congratulate the European Commission for its efforts to facilitate their entry into Europe, as cruise lines’ operating patterns demand that we be able to transfer crew around the world. Some of the proposed measures will facilitate the movement of seafarers, who will to a much lesser extent be forced to apply for visas at the last minute at the external border. This will have a positive impact on the way Europe’s cruise industry operates and also help cruise operators to contribute even more to Europe’s economy.”
Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of ECSA, said: “It is encouraging to note that the European Commission has taken into account the particularities of the shipping industry by proposing changes that would accommodate the need of seafarers. In recent years, seafarers and shipping companies have been too often confronted with administrative burdens resulting from the EU’s visa policy and they seriously hampered the swift embarkation or disembarkation of seafarers in EU ports. With the new Commission proposal, an important step towards visa facilitation for seafarers has been made.”