As seafarers restart their careers this year, many are in desperate situations for that single piece of card presumably required for embarkation.
Well, I guess everyone already knows what we’re talking about. It’s our Seafarer’s Identity Document or SID.
And we all know that it’s been infested with fixers!
What is SID anyway?
Before that, let’s look back at the development of SID.
As a recap from my previous article regarding MARINA replacing SIRB with SID/ SRB, a Seafarer’s Identity Document is a piece of card signifying that the bearer is a true blue seafarer.
Basically, the “official” identification part of our SIRB is separated thus we now have SRB and SID.
The holder of SID enjoys the following benefits from its member states:
- Guaranteed the rights of seafarers to transit, shore leave, and crew change in a country.
- Proves the bearer is a “legitimate seafarer” and is entitled to his full rights.
- Robust and modern security features and
- Visa waiver.
Mandatory or Not?
I’ve heard issues about this and it seems that there are conflicting answers.
Many seafarers I met said that SID is mandatory and you can’t leave the country if you don’t have one. Others go on to say that it’s required abroad.
Meanwhile, other groups say otherwise, that SID is not mandatory, and that you can still leave the country and join your ship without it.
But here’s what we know.
SID is MANDATORY – According to a few Manning Agency
Being a bit concerned with the fully booked slot in their online appointment, I asked my company if I should get a Seafarer’s Identity Document.
“No its not required!”
I got super relieved hearing that.
However, there are a few companies that got spooked and solidly declared that SID is mandatory.
It seems that countries like Brazil, Russia, and a few from South America are looking for this document.
As a matter of fact, Brazilian Immigration requires a SID for all foreign seafarers instead of the Seaman’s book, which is no longer accepted by their authorities to enter/ exit Brazil.
That is according to a post from MARINA.
However, the majority of countries and ports do not even bother to ask about your SID. SIRB or SRB is still the de facto document that they look for.
SID is NOT Mandatory- MARINA
Straight from MARINA themselves, SID is not mandatory.
Here’s what Capt. Jeffrey Solon, the acting Deputy Administrator for Planning of MARINA said in an interview with Seaway Magazine.
To avoid the bad situation from turning worse, Capt. Solon urged seafarers that are not required by their manning companies to have SIDs to refrain from applying.
“Pag ang barko nila dito lang sa Asia, dapat hindi na muna sila kumuha ng SID,” he said
I hope this clears things up a little bit.
Why is it Difficult to Get SID
Now the most awaited part, “Why is MARINA’s online appointment for SID ALWAYS full? I booked many times but to no avail.”
Specifically, satellite offices like PITX, SM Manila, POEA, and even the Central Office in Port Area Manila have opened schedules after three months.
Even Cebu’s schedule is fully booked.
Since the rumor of SID becoming mandatory with crewing agencies, the online platform has been overwhelmed with applicants.
Some say that their workforce has dwindled especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of their staff were working from home thus accommodating fewer applicants.
But I find this not convincing. The pandemic also greatly reduced the number of seafarers applying for certificates, SRB, and SID in Manila.
Then there was a time when 15 MARINA personnel in the central office tested positive for COVID-19. Even so, the schedules were already booked three months in advance since last year!
I leave the critical thinking to you.
Another factor that slows down the capacity of SID production is the availability of machinery. In order to meet the growing number of applicants, proper and enough equipment is also needed.
Considering the fact that there are more or less 400,000 Filipino seafarers, the huge demand would also need huge infrastructure.
And by the way, MARINA may declare SID to be mandatory.
Since we are recognized as the first ratifying country meeting the international requirements for the Seafarer’s Identity Document, we may soon be required to have it before traveling abroad.
Lastly, we have this issue with fixers.
To many of us, it seems like the fixers are having special treatment than us seafarers when it comes to online booking of our SID.
For just as little as Php300, we can get a schedule within the day to process our SID.
But regular seafarers like you and me have to wait three months or travel to the south like Zamboanga to get a slot.
So how do they do this? Do they have special access to MARINA’s online appointment system? Perhaps, another inside job?
Well, I can’t answer that straight since I have no facts. But here’s what I know.
How They Do It
These fixers are able to get a slot by doing a simple thing as “waiting with a quick hand”. Okay, let’s explain.
Here’s how they do it (according to my source).
First, they will ask for your email and other details which will be needed later on to secure a schedule. After logging in to https://sidsrb.marina.gov.ph/, they will check the four Offices of MARINA here in Manila.
Of course, we all know that it’s full. But here’s what they do next.
They will keep on refreshing the page, jumping from one branch to another until they see a green slot.
This will be open for a fraction of a minute as many other fixers are waiting for that schedule so it’s a battle of reflexes.
As soon as they are able to grab it, they will call their client- the seafarer, and the rest is up to him.
This process takes many hours. The fixer will do this many times until he gets a schedule.
To sum this up, SID is not mandatory according to MARINA. There are only a few manning agencies who require this for their crew especially those traveling to Brazil.
However, it will be mandatory soon as many countries are slowly implementing it. We just don’t know when.
If you have enough free time, it would be prudent to book your schedule in advance before the huge waves of applicants overwhelm their system.
Other than that, it’s not wise to get an SID for the purpose of having an additional valid ID. For that, I suggest you get a Unified Multi-Purpose ID from the Social Security System.
It has no expiration and a recognized valid government ID.
May the winds be in your favor.