The Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights (CSR) attorney Deborah Blanchard returns this week from the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) Annual Conference held October 15-17, 2008, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Blanchard was one of 35 elite speakers at the conference of the international organization for women in management positions involved in maritime transportation business and related trades. She spoke on crewmember treatment and access to ports.
The theme of the 2008 conference was “Raising the Profile, Reducing the Footprint.” Over 200 delegates from around the world attended the three-day conference, designed to promote discussion about how to raise women’s profile within the shipping industry, while also confronting growing environmental concerns within the community. Other presenters at the conference included Vivien S. Crea, Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, RADM Mary Landry and RADM William Baumgartner also of the USCG, Dabney Hegg, of the US Senate, Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Subcommittee on Surface Transportation & Merchant Marine, as well as a number of notable industry representatives from Conoco Phillips, OSG, and many more.
Blanchard discussed the 2008 results of CSR’s annual shore leave/terminal access survey on the conference’s panel: “Seafarer Issues: Are We Making Progress?” Since 2002, CSR has conducted an annual snapshot of the ports in North America to gauge the status of seafarers’ ability to partake of time ashore. The 2008 report indicated that approximately 20% of vessels visited during the survey week had one or more incidents of shore leave denial or lack of terminal access due to factors such as lack of visa, exorbitant security fees, or agent restrictions. CSR has worked with chaplains, industry, and governments to ensure that seafarers have the greatest access possible to the “elemental necessity” of shore leave. Initiatives include promoting the ratification of the International Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention, ILO-195 (200) and current US House and Senate bills that would prohibit charging fees to individuals to transit a terminal.
“The conference offered a fantastic opportunity to interact with incredibly accomplished women in all sectors of the shipping industry and to emphasize the importance of the human element within that community,” noted Blanchard.