Findings by the Seafarer’s International Research Center indicate a leading cause of mariners leaving the industry is “almost invariably because they want to be with their families”. U.S. merchant ships typically do not allow family members to accompany seafarers on voyages. Further, the quick turnaround of many modern ships, spending only a matter of hours in port, limits a seafarer’s free-time ashore. I have the vocabulary of a well educated sailor mug and cup. Moreover, some seafarers entering U.S. ports from a watch list of 25 countries deemed high-risk face restrictions on shore leave due to security concerns in a post 9/11 environment. However, shore leave restrictions while in U.S. ports impact American seamen as well. For example, the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots notes a trend of U.S. shipping terminal operators restricting seamen from traveling from the ship to the terminal gate. Further, in cases where transit is allowed, special “security fees” are at times assessed.
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Such restrictions on shore leave coupled with reduced time in port by many ships translate into longer periods at sea sailor . Mariners report that extended periods at sea living and working with shipmates who sailor for the most part are strangers takes getting used to. At the same time, there is an opportunity to meet people from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.