Approved by the 205th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, June 12, 2004
WHEREAS, Jesus dignified seafaring in calling as his first disciples from those who made their living from the sea, and began his ministry “proclaiming release to captives, … and setting at liberty those who are oppressed,” (Luke 4: 18); and
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ sponsored the visit of the Freedom Schooner AMISTAD to Boston in October 2003 to educate its members of their Congregational heritage and tradition of working for the release of captives and oppressed, encouraging them to continue the work for justice; and
WHEREAS, Seafarer’s Friend was incorporated as Boston Seamen’s Friend Society in 1827 as the agent for ministry to and advocate for seafarers on behalf of New England Congregationalists, and continues this ministry today in ports in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine; and
WHEREAS, a survey conducted by the Center for Seafarer Rights and the Seaman’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey revealed that the United States is the only country to require a visa of foreign seafarers to come ashore, and numerous marine terminals in the United States prohibit crews from leaving their ship even if they have a visa; and
WHEREAS, following the AMISTAD into Boston Harbor was the freighter ORCHID BAY with all but one of its crew of 22 Filipinos facing 53 days of virtual captivity (according to the captain to the Port Chaplain, 8 days sailing from Spain and 35 days projected sailing to Shanghai, with 10 days spent in the Port of Boston) aboard due to a port change by the ship owner resulting in the crew not having the proper visa for shore leave, an instance that occurs approximately 15 times a month the past year in the Port of Boston according to records kept by Seafarer’s Friend chaplains; and
WHEREAS, the International Labor Organization Convention 185, Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised) [ILO 185], awaiting ratification by the United States, provides standards for reliable, verifiable, and internationally acceptable identification which balances legitimate port security requirements and the need for crews to attend to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs on shore leave; and
WHEREAS, in accordance with international treaties, the Maritime Transportation Security Act (effective December 2003) in its provisions regarding security for terminals and vessels calls on terminal owners and operators to “ensure coordination of shore leave for vessel personnel or crew change-out, as well as access through the facility for visitors to the vessel (including representatives of seafarer’s welfare and labor organizations).” [Federal Register Par 105.200]; and
WHEREAS, the North American Maritime Ministry Association, of which Seafarers’ Friend is an active member, at its annual meeting in September 2003 in Oakland, California, passed a resolution in support of the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised) [ILO 185]; and was a contributor and supporter of shore leave provisions in the Coast Guard interim regulations for terminals and vessels;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 205th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ invites all churches in the Conference to study the status of seafarers and consider working for the advocacy of seafarer’s rights to shore leave in U.S. ports through
1. Urging their congressional representatives, and through them the State Department, for United States of America ratification and full implementation of the Seafarers’ Identification Documents as substitutes for crewmember visas for shore leave purposes (ILO 185).
2. Urging marine terminal owners and operators who do not allow seafarers to exercise their right to shore leave at their terminals, especially any in Massachusetts ports, to comply with the spirit and specifications of the Coast Guard interim regulations for crew shore leave.