A consultation is underway on plans by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to extend the use of the British Seaman’s Card (BSC) to fishermen.

The BSC proves the holder is a seafarer, meaning they can have shore leave, and access medical care ashore. It also assists with transit. Under current UK regulations, fishers are not eligible for BSCs.

The MCA says the importance of the card became more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic, when some countries had restrictions that were not applicable to key workers, but UK fishermen found themselves unable to prove their key worker status.

The BSC is issued in conformity with ILO Convention No. 108 on seaman’s identity documents. The MCA is working towards implementation of ILO Convention No. 185, which provides for an updated and improved seafarer identity document, but that is a longer and more complex project requiring a new digital system and Home Office policy agreement.

Extending BSC eligibility is an interim measure to solve the immediate problem.

Katy Ware, director of UK Maritime Services, said: “We have said all along that seafarers are key workers, and this interim measure to help fishers who need this card and all its benefits is the right thing to do.”

The consultation can be accessed here and responses can be made until 28 November.

This story was taken from the archives of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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