Visa policy

Priority: to establish a visa policy aligned to the needs of seafarers


“Seafarers should be able to travel more easily in connection with crew changes and access to shore leave. Therefore, visa policy should be better in line with the needs of seafarers.”


KVNR - Tjitso Westra - Bemanningszaken en Opleidingen - web


Tjitso Westra
Manning and Training

+31 10 2176 277

KVNR - Nathan Habers - Public Relations, Crisisco├Ârdinatie en Geopolitiek - web
Press inquiries


Nathan Habers
Public Relations

+31 10 2176 264


Due to the unpredictable nature of sailing schedules in the shipping industry, crew change logistics is a complicated matter. This complexity increases if the application of a Schengen visa is part of the process. This is because the application for a Schengen visa must occur at the embassy of the Schengen Member State where the crew change will take place – while the country and port of call are sometimes only known at short notice.

The vast majority of vessels in the Dutch shipping industry sail according to irregular schedules that are usually determined by the cargoes per voyage – the so-called tramp trade.

Tramp trade can be truly global in nature, with voyages taking up to a number of weeks in duration. However, short trips, last minute changes in the sailing schedule and last minute (un)loading stops occur on a regular basis. This is so-called ‘deep sea shipping’, where crew changes can often, but not always, be planned for a maximum period of a few weeks.

The other part of the Dutch tramp trade involves a sailing area that is generally limited to European waters. This is ‘short sea shipping’. Voyages tend to be short; most commonly with an average duration of less than a week and last minute sailing schedules are common. In short sea shipping operations, the next (or second from next) port of call is often only known at short notice, or it can change at the last minute. Crew changes are naturally planned well in advance, but in many cases the port where a crew change will take place is only known at the last moment; sometimes only a few days in advance.

The challenge

In the implementation of the EU Visa Code – and based of their professional status – seafarers should be eligible for multiple and multiannual visas. As such, a seafarer would have to apply for a visa to travel to board his ship less often. This would lead to improved logistics planning and a reduction of administrative tasks for both businesses and consular posts.

Multiple and multi-annual visas would also minimise the need to issue visas at borders when signing off.

The issue of visas for seafarers demands a fast turnaround of a maximum of a few days. Regulations must take this into account in order to match the unpredictable nature of the shipping industry.

In addition to issuing visas in the seafarer’s country of residence, the possibility of obtaining a visa at the border remains an essential part of the regulatory framework – thus enabling the issuance of visas in the event of unforeseen circumstances. These include a change in the sailing schedule of the ship, humanitarian reasons or temporary closure of consular posts.

From an operational point of view, it is necessary that seafarers are able to travel to and from ships for necessary crew changes without hindrance. And, in the context of positive employment practices, it is important for seafarers to have access to shore leave during port calls.

State of play - 8 February 2021

The KVNR is consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the most favourable application of the visa rules for seafarers that were amended in 2020 (EU Visa Code).

The lessons learned from the issuance of visas during the coronavirus pandemic, and European Commission initiatives to establish digital visas are valid reasons to restart the discussion of visas for seafarers at European level.