Most crew members will be familiar with the blue book that many yachting professionals carry alongside their passports, but not everyone has one. Or at least, not until now. In recent months, many yacht crew have been asking us about applying for one, now that international travel has become more complicated.
So, if you haven’t already, should you get one and why? Let’s explore what a Seaman’s Book is and what its benefits are.
What is it?
The Seafarer’s Identity Document (SID) is known by several names: Seaman’s Discharge Book; Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book; Seaman’s Service Record/Book; Seafarer’s Card. It is a record of career certification and experience and is essential for crew working on commercial and merchant vessels. It can be a requirement of owners/managers of larger yachts.
Can you travel with it?
The SID is a quasi-legal document that supplements your passport and visas. It does not replace the passport and cannot be used to enter another country if arriving by air or overland. It does, however, identify you as a seafarer (ie. an essential worker) in the eyes of airlines and immigration officials. It also provides access to marine flight tickets, though some airlines will accept other documentation that qualifies you as a seafarer.
How to get one
In the current framework (ILO 108), SIDs can be issued by the crew member’s country of nationality, country of the flag vessel, or by the country of the crew member’s employer. Some flag authorities require a first-time application for a SID to be signed off by a current employer, while others merely require a certified professional (eg a lawyer, doctor, police officer, etc) to countersign the application.
(ILO 185, adopted in 2003, has not yet been ratified by all Member States. This new standard is a biometric document, which can only be issued by a crew member’s country of nationality or country of legal, permanent residence).
What is the legal purpose of SID?
While the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for the regulatory framework of maritime shipping, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the UN agency that oversees international labour standards, including those for merchant seafarers. The ILO’s 183 Member States adopted the SID in 1958, to facilitate crew travel aboard seafaring vessels visiting other countries’ designated seaports.
Crew members who do not carry a valid SID issued by a ratifying Member State may be subject to the visa/entry requirements of the destination country. For example, a US national entering a Brazilian port without a recognised SID is required to obtain a Brazilian work visa in their passport, prior to entering Brazilian national waters.
Summary of benefits:
- Recognised by most IMO/ILO member states as a valid passport, identifying the bearer as an essential seafarer (important when flying under restrictions)
- Helps in arranging and obtaining visas
- Enables crew to travel on marine flight fares, which can be discounted, refundable and offer greater flexibility with changes and luggage allowances
- Obviates the need to purchase a return flight ticket in some cases
- Creates a clear record of career progression for future employers
Where to get a SID
This article was prepared with the kind cooperation of Lee Harris, Operations Manager at Blue Marine Travel, a leading travel agency specialising in maritime travel. Contact 24/7: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 1279 661 000 / bluemarinetravel.com
Ⓒ Estela Shipping Superyacht Agency 2021