Post-September 11, 2001, maritime security measures have placed growing restrictions on merchant mariners' shore leave while increasing their security responsibilities onboard and ashore. Despite their additional duties, seafarers face a greater likelihood of confinement to their vessels, not based on known security risks, but simply because they do not possess crewmember D-1 visas. At the same time, backlogs at American consulates and the high visa fee make D-1 visas very difficult for foreign mariners to obtain.
Maritime security depends upon merchant vessel crews being on the front line in the war against terrorism. Merchant mariners should be properly identified and recognized. Requirements for shore leave should be reasonably calculated to prevent illegal entry without unreasonably burdening mariners and their employers. Strict security measures do not need to diminish the already limited freedoms and opportunities for shore leave that seafarers possess.
Internationally recognized seafarers' identification cards offer the best possible compromise between legitimate port security requirements and the need for crews to attend to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs on shore leave--provided that the United States accepts seafarers' identification cards as the basis for waiving crew visas for shore leave.