A foreign shipping boat: local seafarers working on such boats have lost their jobs due to lack of necessary documents to be issued by the government. Photo/Hulio Ciza Chavez/Reuters

Seafarers still await ID papers after job losses

The seafarers brought the matter to the attention of the ministry nine years ago.

15 August 2023

Two months ago, Transport Ministry said it would issue documents to seafarers who lost their jobs due to lack of Seafarer’s Identity Document (SID) and seaman’s book, which Maldives is required to issue under international treaties to which Maldives is a signatory.

SID is an essential and international must-have ID card for seafarers to enter ports and airports around the world. The seaman's book is used by seafarers as a passport and describes their information, experience and level.

The Ministry of Transport said in June that it was working to provide these documents, which must already be in the hands of every seafarer, after concerns were expressed that seafarers had lost their jobs due to the lack of these documents. 

  • The SID is being prepared in accordance with international standards in collaboration with the Maldives Immigration

  • The works will be completed and the documents will be handed over to the seafarers by July, Ministry said

  • Seafarers who require SID are also asked to submit an application to the Ministry of Transport

However, to date, no progress has been made, according to seafarers.

Mohammed Suood, who works as a captain at Greece's Sealink Shipping Company, told Atoll Times on Tuesday that the applications have now been sent to Immigration, but they don’t know what happened to the applications after that.

“The Transport Ministry says that Immigration does not respond to calls,” Suood said.

He said the seafarers have met with MPs, ministers and various relevant authorities to find a solution.

Despite various attempts to reach the Immigration, the agency could not be reached for comment.

The seafarers brought the matter to the attention of the ministry nine years ago when they started facing difficulties in traveling without the documents.

"... Since 2014, over the past nine years, we have had a series of meetings with senior Transport Ministry officials and officials of crew recruiting agencies, requesting several times for the release of SID and seaman books in line with the [International Labor Organisation] ILO convention, but this has not happened," seafarers have previously said.

According to them, the lack of documentation has caused serious difficulties and losses. They include:

  • Considered unqualified for employment

  • Detention in custody

  • Fines levied on ship owner and crew

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention, which protects workers' rights, requires seafarers to have an SID to authenticate them, so many countries will not allow entry without these documents, they said.

“In the future, this problem will become more serious and Maldivians working on vessels traveling to neighboring countries will soon be affected,” they said in a letter.

According to them, if the issue is not addressed urgently, this will make it extremely difficult for the families of the seafarers to meet their living expenses and will have serious implications due to the closure of an industry that is contributing huge amounts of foreign exchange to the country’s economy.

Maldives signed up to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1967 as a member.

The Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), which Maldives is required to ratify as a member of the organisation, was also ratified after it was included in the IMO whitelist in 2015 for failing to do so, seafarers said.