Changes to Seafarer Identity Documents – PLEASE RESPOND

Circular No: NP/0155/19




Our ref: S6/4/19


30th August 2019


Dear Colleagues


Changes to Seafarer Identity Documents – PLEASE RESPOND


I am writing to ask Shipping Branches and seafarer members to respond to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s initial questions on changes to British Seamans Cards that would bring them into line with ILO Convention 185 on Seafarers’ Identity Documents (SIDs).

At present British Seamans Cards (BSCs) are mainly issued by the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS) in Cardiff, in line with ILO Convention 108 on SIDs from 1955. The main impacts of ILO Convention 185 are the inclusion of new security features similar to an e-passport and moving to a credit-card style SID. ILO 185 compliant SIDs are expected to become the international legal standard documentation for Ratings and Officers.


The MCA is now starting the process of UK ratification of ILO 185. The questions relevant to RMT members are attached to this Circular. You are asked to provide your responses by Wednesday 11th September. Please email responses to the National Policy Department at by this deadline to ensure that members’ views are included in their Union’s formal response.


The MCA has also indicated that they will hold a full, formal consultation before any changes are made to the current system of British Seamans Cards.

It would be appreciated if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all branch members and you will be updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash

General Secretary



ILO Convention 185 Seafarer Identity Documents (SIDs) – MCA Questions


1.            Do you support in principle the proposal to ratify ILO 185 and implement the new standard SID?


          • The new standard provides for the similar security features for the holder as current UK e-passports and travel documents. The proposal is to issue SIDs in the compact credit card sized format;

          • The application and issuing process could be streamlined making it faster and simpler;

          • Checks on identity and bona fide seafarer status could be improved;

          • It is possible that the old ILO Convention No 108 (1955) will be withdrawn at some stage in the future leaving the UK unable to issue internationally recognised SIDs;

          • As more countries adopt ILO 185 standards, UK BSCs may be less widely accepted, causing potential delays for UK seafarers;

          • ILO 185 standard SIDs would facilitate more effective management of seafarers at border control points in the UK.


2.            Would you support making the holding of a valid UK passport or travel document a prerequisite for the issue of a UK SID?


          • Under ILO 185 SIDs are only to be issued to UK nationals with right of abode in the UK, or those granted permanent residence in the UK;

          • A SID is not a valid travel document on its own and a passport or other valid travel document is required along with a SID for international travel;

          • This would enhance the standard of identity verification for applicants for SIDs.


3.            Do you foresee any issues if all SIDs were managed via postal applications to the Registry of Shipping & Seaman (i.e. a counter service at MCA Marine Offices would no longer be available)?


          • 60-70% of BSCs are issued by RSS via postal applications;

          • SIDs are valid for 10 years enabling adequate time to plan for a replacement/renewal.


4.            Do you have any other observations you would like to make about the opportunity to implement ILO 185 on Seafarer Identity Documents?