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Why do Captains hold passports?
Posted: Friday, November 5, 2010 9:10 PM

Why do Captains hold passports?  If we are meant to have valid I.D. why does the Captain have my passport?

Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010 9:13 PM
Passport is government property in an individual's care. A captain has no legal right to hold passports for crew. Demand your passport back, since it isn't yours to give away in the first place. Actually, in most countries there is a legal prerequisite that the holder never abandons his/her passport and also signs in the application for a passport that this will not take place. For merchant sailors, the captain normally holds the seaman's discharge book for the duration of the voyage, and released to the mariner when leaving the ship. It is mustered by the captain to the port/national authorities upon entering a new port of call. A merchant captain would never ask you to render your passport, but he can ask to see it for verification of licenses etc. Yacht captains have however a problem when it comes to verifying crewlists to port/national auth. when entering a new country since most of the yachties never bothered/not qualified to get a seaman's discharge book.
Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010 10:37 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 342

"A merchant captain would never ask you to render your passport ..."

Newsflash!  It happens all the time and in some countries, Australia for example, the customs and border protection folks strongly suggest that crew not be permitted access to their passports. In many other countries a crew member is issued a shore pass that serves as a very location and time restricted visa and the passport is held hostage for its return on departure.

Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010 10:53 PM
Bad wording; "would" should read "should", some countries demand that passports be taken by the agent to the "immigration office" for stamping, mind you, always for only a "couple of hours", ie some form of tipping is expected if you ever want to see your passport again! Happens a lot in African countries. In Angola we always had our proper passports hidden and produced emergency travel passports to the airport officials and agents. As for the Aussies "strongly suggests" indicates "not entirely kosher with international law". A government cannot legally detain another government's property unless foul play is detected. But then again, there is no legal requirement to grant shore leave either, only joining/discharge voyage and repatriation, ref ILO 108. So cappie is in a bind, collect passport or deny shore leave.
Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 3:12 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061

I usually collect passports (everyone has copies of pertinent pages) and store them in a water tight floating container with the rest of the important papers that need to go with us in case of abandoning ship. It also makes it easier when we are clearing in (in Indonesia you formally clear in and out of every port) and I don't have to wake anyone to get their passport. Everyone knows where the PPs are in the wheelhouse and are welcome to get theirs at any time. There is nothing nefarious going on, it just happens to be the simplest, safest and most convenient way of doing things. If you don't trust your captain with your passport, I suggest you find another job, because that's about the least valuable thing you are trusting them with.

Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 7:20 PM
How many captain's out there have left passports with crew members only to have them lost, stolen or misplaced? this creates problems for the captain as the vessel can't depart without having ALL paperwork in order. Whenever crew need their passports for something or another they are returned to them upon request then returned to captain for safekeeping. Ever had a crew member state that 'I last saw it in my cabin somewhere'?????
Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 10:25 PM
Good reply ANON. Captains only keep the passports for the one and only reason, good house keeping. Nothing worste than a crew member misplacing his or her passport, we use a check in/out book to keep track of the passport, Makes it all simply, If you really want your passport, your welcome ,as your walking to the crew house!
Mike O'Neill
Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 2:45 PM
Joined: 03/06/2009
Posts: 14

Well said Henning - I agree 100%
Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2010 3:32 PM
Joined: 09/10/2008
Posts: 134

Yes, well put Henning. As well as having photocopies of relevant passport and visa pages, there are other forms of government issue ID that you can carry...
Capt Kaj
Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 9:30 AM
Joined: 05/08/2008
Posts: 83

I´d certainly ask the Capt as to why he has your passport. It was often done at times so that the crew don´t scarper from the yacht, at least the Capt had some sort of hold on the crew member. It was also done so that entry and exits from ports can be done without having to collect the passports everytime you needed them, however that depends on where you are travelling in and out of.

With regards to ID generally, I don´t carry my passport usually anywhere, unless of course I an travelling or flying. I usually have a photo ID such as a drivers Lic, and I also carry a colour copy of my passport and one of my wife´s, and she does the same for me so that if one of us loses their ID, the other has a copy. I can´t recall ever being asked for ID in a normal everyday situation to tell the truth.

Your passport is yours in reality, no one has the right to hold it indefinitely other than for doing the usual formalities. Other than that, it is the property of your government!


Capt Kaj

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 7:22 PM
Joined: 07/05/2008
Posts: 9

From my personal experience I always hold passports because of an incident that I had. When I check into most country's I have to sign a crew-list with the name of every crew on board and show all passports. I once had a girl just ship with her passpost and the boat was not allowed to leave/ checkout because she was not coming with us and I had no idea where she ran off to. Until I could show proof that this female left the country, either by boat, plane, swam or in a bodybag. If she wanted to leave that bad I would have paid for her plane ticket to fly the next island or wherever and they could come back to that country on their own visa, not the boats. Besides that I could care less if they want to hold their own passport but it saves the captains a lot of headache sometimes.
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