ID controls can be extended – despite criticism

During the refugee wave last spring, the government imposed mandatory requirements for identity checks on ships. There is a plan to extend the controls – but the shipping industry is critical.

We find it difficult to see that there is a need for this regulation from a maritime safety perspective," says Anders Hermansson, CEO of Swedish shipping.

Kravet om att kontrollera id-handlingar på passagerarfartyg upphör att gälla den 1 september, men regeringen planerar att förlänga det till årsskiftet. Arkivbild.
The requirement to check identity documents on passenger ships expires on 1 September, but the government plans to extend it until the end of the year.

On 28 March – just over a month after Russia invaded Ukraine – the new regulation began to apply which makes it mandatory for shipping companies to check identity documents on all passengers.

The background was the extensive flow of refugees from Ukrainians who came mainly with boats to ports in Stockholm and southern Sweden.

When the law came into force, it was at a time when it was feared that there would be a great many refugees from the war in Ukraine. It was important only for reasons of identity to ensure who was on board the boat, says Minister of Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth (S).

Substantially reduced

Since then, the number of refugees coming to Sweden has proved to be considerably lower than the authorities thought. During the month of March, more than 27 000 Ukrainian citizens applied for asylum in Sweden in accordance with the EU's mass refugee directive.

The requirement for ID checks expires on 1 September but the government is now preparing to extend the regulation until the end of the year. It is met with strong criticism from the shipping industry, which believes that they have good control over who is travelling by ship to and from Sweden on the basis of the passenger lists that need to be drawn up. Since 1998 there has been a registration requirement for those travelling on board passenger ships departing or arriving from EU ports.

We find it difficult to see that there is a need for this regulation from a maritime safety perspective. The foundation that existed before, where names, age, gender, nationality, it has worked very well since the 1990s when this requirement was introduced within the EU, says Anders Hermansson, CEO of the Swedish Maritime Industry Association.

The purpose of taking in this information is to know how many and who need to be saved in the event of an accident.

"Let's hear it."

As the government is now preparing an extension of the ID controls, it does so with reference to maritime safety, which Anders Hermansson thinks is completely wrong. At the same time, it was before the holidays "some single person" who travelled from Ukraine.

We find it difficult to see that there is such a need for maritime safety reasons. If the government sees other needs to do so, it should use other legislation, says Hermansson.

Tomas Eneroth believes that the shipping companies need to have control over who is travelling with them. Most companies have done this but some have not met the new requirement, he claims. He also claims that the ID regulation has probably prevented trafficking, although the shipping companies are already doing a good job to combat trafficking in human beings, according to the Minister.

At the same time, it has been important for us, not least for maritime safety reasons, to safeguard the basic principle: we should know who is on board, says Eneroth.

But we are in dialogue and see if there is any simplification or relief we can make.