Seamans Book


My daughter is working as a Dancer on the Sun Princess and is currently working Cruises in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. She has a Visa for Australia but no requirements for a Visa for the other Countries (She's a British Citizen and UK Passport Holder). In 2 weeks they are sailing to South Africa via Singapore, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Zanzibar and Madagascar. She has been told on board that she cannot go ashore in South Africa without a Seamans Book (or card). She is not in possession of one of these and they can be time consuming to obtain (she needs to apply in person).

Does anyone know if this is correct as I understand a Seamans Card is to go ashore at a port if no Visa for that country is held. British Citizens do not require a Visa for visits of less than 90 days so I see no reason why she needs a Seamans Book? She has never been asked to have a Seamans Book in the past when working Cruises in Europe, Caribbean and Russia.

Any information gratefully received!

19 Answers

Never heard of it and thankyou for forcing me to go learn more. I usually provide a link to something official, but when I GOOGLED South Africa Seamans Book, I got waaaay too much info. Suggest you go there and read up on what it is and why it may (or may not) be necessary. It seems hard to believe that EVERY crew member on that ship has one, or even cares. Worst case, is she can't go ashore in S Africa. How long are they there? a day? not a big deal. hardly the end of the world. Besides, the entertainers I've spoken to over the years often would rather sleep in than wander through portside junque shops.

I would think that the best course would be to reach out directly to the South African gov and see what they have to say.

Cheers. They have 3 Days in Cape Town so 3 Days and 2 nights to go out and enjoy themselves and unless on Port Manning Duty (I Day only) they usually go out as a group in the day - Beaches, Waterfalls, White Water Rafting etc. The ship then visits Durban and Port Elizabeth (I Day at each). The journey from Madagascar to Cape Town is 5 Sea Days so I imagine they will have Cabin Fever by the time they get to Cape Town!

I did Contact Maritime and Coastguard Agency (UK Ship Register) and they don't know - they said best to Contact Foreign Office although the Foreign Office Website has no mention of Seamans Book. It seems to be a grey area! I did a Google search yesterday and that didn't seem to provide any concrete answers either. Most articles seem to just say it's a useful secondary form of identification but not legally required to enter a country if you already have the correct Visa or Passport if no Visa required.

And that was exactly the conclusion I came to after hacking my way thru 4 different websites. So that begs the question of EXACTLY who told her not to get off the ship. which is nonsense. She gets off with whatever ID she usually carries under those circumstances. and some bureaucrat at Customs says uh she gets back on? why do I think that's absurd and not happening? I don't think there's a problem. But now, we NEED to hear "the end of the story"!

Interesting for sure. Keep us updated on the end story.

She's out of contact currently but I expect to hear from her tomorrow when the ship docks at Port Lincoln in South Australia. I'll find out if it is just misinformation and what the outcome is. I assume all the other passengers who are disembarking in South Africa just need the regular Passport and Visa requirements to disembark so it should be the same for Crew. I think the Passengers are mainly American and Australian.

I'll keep you updated.

Well still no reason explained by Supervisors / Managers as to why the Seamans Book is required. The ships staff have offered to do the application for a reasonable fee but she has been told it will take 'months'. South Africa first port of call will be Richards Bay on 17th February so no chance of doing it via the ship staff in time for arrival. So the crew who have not currently got a Seamans Book have decided to apply independently - for UK Passport Holders the Application Form has to be filled out personally with a wet signature by the applicant and must include a colour photocopy of the passport signed and dated by an 'official person' onboard and then physically posted (not sent electronically). The normal turnaround is 10 days for UK £55 but for UK £105 they do a Fast Track service which takes 24 Hours. However she has to wait till they get to Melbourne, Australia tomorrow to post it to the UK Office in Cardiff - International Courier cost is A$98 and takes 2 business days. Then the Maritime agency in UK charge UK £30 to courier to anywhere in the world. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that it will arrive on time for collection. She has been told it's not possible to courier to Madagascar so it will have to be Singapore (ship arrival date 30 January). One of the Dutch Crew is filling out a similar application and her father works for KLM Dutch Airline so is going to take the Seamans book when received to Singapore to hand over when the ship arrives as he's flying there on duty anyway. So my daughter is wondering whether to gamble and get her Seamans Book sent to her friends father so he can take it with him to give to her in Singapore. No-one I speak to seems clear as to why it's required and who needs one. I rang UK Maritime Office and they weren't sure and also the Government Website gives ambiguous advice. To complicate matters further there is a Seamans Card or a Seamans Discharge Book which can both be applied for (UK £55 each). I've been told by the Maritime Agency that she needs a Seamans Card (British seaman’s card is an internationally accepted document which lets British seamen land at foreign ports without needing a visa. You must be a British citizen to apply for a card.) and not a Seamans Discharge Book (A seaman’s discharge book is a full record of a seaman’s career experience and certification.) So in this age of the Internet and whatever everything still needs to be physically sent by pigeon post when you are stick in the middle of the Southern Ocean with no sight of land and only certain days you can pick deliveries up from a post office...………………..

Will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what is actually required when they arrive. Please keep us in the loop as to what is going on. I hope things work out and that she gets this all in order.


Oh good grief. In an ever changing world, its comforting to know that some things NEVER change. The bureaucrats are an international species that will never become endangered.

Well my daughter managed to apply for the Seamans Card and it was delivered on Saturday to her friends father in the Netherlands. So he's going to hand carry it to Singapore when he flies out tomorrow and hand it over to her when the ship docks there on Thursday 30 January.

She couldn't have picked a worse time to send the application - last thing on Friday afternoon (just before closing) on Tasmania (a small Island off a Big Island!). So the application probably sat in the Post Office all weekend and arrived in Melbourne on Monday and arrived UK Thursday. The Maritime Agency processed and issued Thursday Afternoon and it arrived in Netherlands Saturday Morning.

Now I wait to see if they ask for it when she enters South Africa!

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