New York -- (UNNC) February 10, 2005 -- 4:00PM -- In an
effort to pre-empt terrorism on the high seas and in the world’s ports, a new
and more rigorous United Nations-sponsored biometric identity verification
system that could potentially affect 1.2 million maritime workers handling 90
per cent of global trade has entered into force.
Although only three countries France, Jordan and Nigeria
have so far ratified the
Labour Organization (ILO) Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention 2003 (No.
185), only two need do so for it two enter into force, and it became
operative yesterday, six months after its second endorsement.
But more than 50 countries have submitted the Convention,
Identity Documents Convention 1958 (No.108), for consideration by their
national parliaments. Many, including India, the Philippines and Indonesia,
which have large numbers of seafarers, are making plans for implementation
while considering the ratification.
All ratifying states will be required to issue new
documents conforming to the standards for converting two fingerprints into a
biometric template to be stored in an internationally standardized 2-D barcode
printed on the Seafarers’ Identity Document (
One basic requisite is global interoperability, meaning
that the fingerprint information issued in one country can be read correctly
by equipment used in another.
“The Convention puts in place a comprehensive security
system that enables the first global implementation of biometric
identification technology on a mandatory basis, thus enabling positive
identification of the seafarer that holds the document,” said Cleopatra
Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO
The Convention, adopted by the 176-member Geneva-based
organization in June 2003, seeks to balance the imperatives of security with
the rights and freedoms of maritime workers and facilitate mobility in the
exercise of their profession, for example when they board their ships to work,
take shore leave or return home.
Employers’ groups, workers’ groups and governments
ILO’s Governing Body supported the approval of a new standard as a matter
of urgency to meet new security measures already being imposed on seafarers
worldwide. Until now there have been no mandatory specifications for
international identity documents.