In 2016 against the background of offshore vessels staying in port for a longer period when mobilized for a new project, a dispute arose between the border control authorities in the port of Rotterdam and the maritime industry about the moment an on-signing non-EU seafarer should receive an exit stamp in his/her travel document.
The normal procedure so far has been that a travel document is provided with an exit stamp the moment the holder joins the ship as crew member (signing-on). However, it is now argued by the border control authorities, and subsequent the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, that in cases where a ship does not leave the port within a short time (not further defined) after the seafarer joins the ship, the exit stamp should be provided upon departure of the ship.
The dispute turned into a court case, in which the Court of Rotterdam ruled that the refusal to provide the exit stamp upon signing-on was in breach of the Schengen Borders Code and thus that the authorities acted unlawful.
However, the Ministry of Justice and Security appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court of the Netherland. Since the interpretation of the Schengen Borders Code is key in the case, the SAC of the Netherlands has instigated preliminary ruling proceedings to clarify EU-law. The question whether a non-EU seafarer should receive an exit stamp upon signing-on as crew member or upon departure of the ship has been submitted to the European Court of Justice.
The application has now been published and is entitled ‘J. and Others’ and given the following reference number Case C-341/18.
It goes without saying that a ruling by the European Court of Justice how to apply article 11 of the Schengen Borders Code (the stamping of travel documents on entry and exit) in case of on-signing non-EU seafarers will affect all Schengen member states and as such also the global shipping industry. Not only effecting the seafarers involved and the ships, but it will also effect dry-docking operations, repair yard work etc and even super yachts staying longer in port. When the court will rule against the interest of the maritime industry all member states needs to change their common practice and disruption will be the case.
For this reason, the Maritime by Holland (NML) brings the above to your attention as valuable ENMC member with a view to encourage your local members to lobby national governments to express support for the view that travel documents of on-singing seafarers are to be stamped upon joining the ship as crew member and not upon departure of the ship. For the purposes of providing more background information and lobbying national governments, the Dutch industry parties involved have published the attached White Paper and an illustrative animation movie. https://www.kvnr.nl/schengen
Same request have been forwarded by European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) to all their members in Europe.
Therefore, Members are invited to make urgent contact with their national authorities inviting them to consider intervening in the proceedings by the deadline of 22 August. Attached is the white paper prepared by the Dutch Maritime Industry partners which contains background information in order to support the lobby efforts towards national governments. Should members require any further information on the case, they are invited to contact Tjitso Westra at KVNR ([email protected]).