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For seafarers dealing with "The Authorities" for immigration, customs, agriculture and safety is an every port occurrence for the Master.   As a young Officer he or today she, learns the procedure over the years in accordance with country and the part of the world it is situated in.  Most seafarers are pretty cynical about entering into a port and know that a "consideration" necessary in one country can be cause for years in prison for "bribing-an-officer" in another. To us it is all pretty much a routine - or is it?

Recently we have seen the release from prisons in two very different parts of the world of young Americans.  However the dramatic behaviour and posturing of the Authorities involved was, surprisingly, not that different.  It is therefore food-for-thought about what seafarers might expect if and when we find ourselves involved in a situation in a country other than our own.  These days it is not far away only as far as our vessels Flag State.  We sail in vessels which have a Flag State different from the Passport we hold.  We now must obtain the Maritime Qualifications of that Flag State and therefore have placed yourselves under the jurisdiction of that Flag State.  Seafarers today must know the law of their Flag State, how it applies to them and how the Flag State will apply it under a maritime situation - some do not have any system but "consider" the matter!!

When NAUTICAL LOG taught maritime law the point was made to explain that issue to the students.  For example there are different legal systems each of which has an entirely different way of applying its law in its Courts.  The three most prominent systems are Common Law, most used of all as the last vestige of an empire on which "the sun never set".   Sharia Law, used by countries whose population are followers of Islam.  The Code Napoleon used by most European Union, Central and South American and African countries in several differing forms.  Brehon Law was used in Ireland and NAUTICAL LOG considers it a great tragedy that it was overtaken by Common Law during the 800 years of occupation by the British.

Most seafarers might think that the problems with the Authorities mostly occurred outside Europe mainly in Africa, the Middle and Far East.  However as we have seen just this last weekend this may not be entirely true.  In the European Union Italy has the most law enforcement agents per capita of all the countries, in fact it has twice as many agents as the United Kingdom for the same population size, some 325,000 officers.  They are divided into seven (7) different police services - all superbly uniformed, driving Alfa Romeo's and in one case Subaru's.  There is overlapping authority in maritime affairs so it is possible to meet several agencies when arriving in an Italian Port.  At one time most all were paramilitary forces but since 2000 some have been transferred to Civilian status.

The seven (7) are:
  • Arma dei Carabinieri
  • Guardia di Finanza
  • Polizia di Stato
  • Poliza Penitenziaria
  • Corpo Forestale dello Stato
  • Polizia Provinciale
  • Polizia Municipale
In addition there is:
  • Corpo dello Capitanerie di porto - Guardia costiera
The Italian Coastguard is a division of the Italian Navy which seafarers will also probably meet up with as well.  Amazingly with all this policing the Italian Justice System seems to have great trouble with its investigations, the proper taking of evidence, the preserving of such evidence, and securing of such evidence.  It also suffers from overly dramatic Court behaviour even for the rather expressive Italian culture.  These are all things for Masters and Officers to be aware of should a maritime incident occur.

Good Watch.

There are still some 400 of our fellow seafarers held captive by pirates ashore and off the coast of Somalia.  They hope for release - get involved to reduce the trauma they and their families suffer.


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