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Homeland Security

UN-backed maritime identification to go into force to fight terrorism

18 August 2004 In the ongoing battle against the threat of terrorism on the high seas and in the world's ports, a new and more rigorous biometric identity verification system which could potentially be used by 1.2 million global maritime workers has received the necessary ratifications to go into force by February, the United Nations labour agency has announced.

Just two ratifications are needed for the entry into force of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 185 aimed at bolstering international security in the global sea shipping industry, and Jordan has followed France with its endorsement, the 176-member Geneva-based agency said yesterday.

The Convention, adopted by the International Labour Conference 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.

"The tragic consequences of terrorism can be aggravated by security measures resulting in hardship for the world's seafarers, including work under detrimental conditions or loss of jobs, and for world shipping in general," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO programme that promotes the new instrument.

"This convention provides an unprecedented international system for identification freely agreed to on behalf of governments, ship owners and seafarers," she added of the new "biometric template" which turns two fingerprints of a seafarer into an internationally standardized 2-D barcode on the Seafarer's Identity Document (SID).

Employers' groups, workers' groups and governments represented on 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.

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