Five Filipino seafarers from two separate vessels have been arrested, all apparently within 24 hours, and detained in Liverpool following the discovery of pornographic materials on personal laptops and mobile phones by HM Customs officers, says the North of England P&I Club, NEPIA. With four men arrested from one vessel there is the possibility that such arrests could affect safe-manning.
NEPIA says no details are currently available about what kind of pornography was involved but seafarers visiting the land of the Soaraway Sun perhaps do need to be reminded that the UK has fairly strict laws on pornography and possessors can be charged and prosecuted and deported, which may affect their future employability.
Currently HM Customs is attempting to crack down on the importation of material which is easily available on the internet, as this BBC report makes clear.
Child porn is under special scrutiny. In December 2008 two Filipino seafarers, Wilfredo Villanueva and Jimmy Camus, were arrested, tried, imprisoned and deported for possession of several hundred photographs and a number of pornographic DVDs featuring children.
This is not the first incident of its kind, something similar occurred in Canada, and it’s worth noting that porn on a flash drive may not escape vigilance either in the UK or elsewhere.
As NEPIA warns: “H M Customs on the back of these arrests may consider there to be a wider problem with crewmembers bringing such images into the UK, this in turn may lead to an increase in Customs searches in the UK, either locally and/or in other UK ports… The arrest and detention of four crewmembers from one vessel can have serious implications on manning levels and additional searches may also cause delays to the operations of the ship.”
NEPIA recommends having and enforcing an internet policy on board all vessels. Internet access is important to today’s seafarers, many shipowners don’t see why seafarers should want to access the internet and maintain contact with home while they’re at sea for months on end so incidents like this could give them more ammunition to avoid providing what should be, and is, a basic human right.
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