Tripartite Meeting of Experts

Tripartite Meeting of Experts recommends revisions to the Annexes to Convention No. 185 to keep them in line with modern identity document technology

News | 10 March 2015
A tripartite meeting of experts, including representatives of flag and port States, employers’ and workers’ organizations and international non-governmental organizations, adopted recommendations in Geneva on 6 February to revise the Annexes to the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003 (No. 185).

The Convention is designed to provide seafarers with verifiable identification in order to facilitate their temporary admission into foreign territory for the purposes of shore leave, transit and transfer. It was adopted in 2003, revising the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention, 1958 (No. 108), and takes into account modern-day security concerns. The biometric standards and the procedures to be complied with, which are set out in the Annexes to the Convention, aim to ensure an interoperable seafarers’ identity document that satisfies national security requirements. Importantly, Convention No. 185 provides for a rapid procedure to amend its Annexes, precisely to enable them to keep pace with technological developments.

In light of the advances that have been made concerning border security and identity documents since the adoption of the Convention in 2003, the Governing Body decided at its 320th Session (March 2014) to hold the tripartite meeting, which included maritime and visa experts, to examine those issues and discuss various options concerning Convention No. 185. Ms Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department, recalled that “The decision to convene a tripartite meeting of experts on this important issue highlights the ILO’s recognition of the fundamental rights of seafarers to have easier access to port areas, to transit through countries and to go ashore after weeks or months of working and living on board in an inherently stressful work environment. While ensuring these rights, the Convention aims to strike the right balance with national security concerns. This has been a process of social dialogue among the governments, shipowners and seafarers, and has benefitted greatly from the guidance and support of the ILO’s international partners, including the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Organization for Standardization.”

Following constructive discussions, the tripartite experts adopted a general conclusion and recommendations to the Governing Body, which recommended that the Annexes to the Convention be amended to bring them into line with the current technology used for ePassports, thus facilitating the authentication by border authorities anywhere in the world of Seafarers’ Identity Documents issued under Convention No. 185. If the recommendations are approved by the ILO Governing Body, and corresponding amendments are adopted by the International Labour Conference, seafarers’ identity documents issued under the Convention will no longer use a fingerprint template in a two-dimensional bar code, but will include a facial image biometric and a digital signature, stored in a contactless chip, which will permit them to be inter-operable in the infrastructure used by most countries to issue and authenticate ePassports.

The recommendations will be considered by the ILO Governing Body at its upcoming 323rd Session (March 2015).