Earlier in the week the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced that from 28 February 2021 it would be ending interim arrangements that had allowed vessels with seafarers that had served more than the 11 months stipulated under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to call at its ports.
“In our view there has been sufficient time for ship operators to adjust to the COVID-19 world and develop new plans for seafarer repatriation and crew changes,” said AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz.
“Seafarers have shouldered a heavy burden during the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining global trade and our keeping our economies moving by delivering the vital supplies that we all need. But it has come at a personal cost to the seafarers who have spent longer on board ships, unable to take shore leave due to mandatory quarantine and separated from their friends and families.”
The move is seen as positive step by the ITF, which represents seafarers globally, and called for regulators and the industry to return to respecting the rights and welfare of seafarers.
“We welcome the decision by AMSA to end their exemptions for shipowners to have crew on board beyond the 11 months maximum allowed for internationally. But this is only the start of the action we need by port states to help resolve the crew change crisis and set clear expectations for the global shipping industry,” ITF Seafarers’ and inland navigation section coordinator, Fabrizio Barcellona.
“While we are disappointed that this unnecessary exemption will continue for another three months, we welcome the acknowledgement by Australia’s Port State Control that it is ‘not sustainable’ to persist with exemptions like this that harm the welfare of seafarers and infringe on their rights.”
However, the ITF criticised the Australian authorities handling of vessels with Covid-19 cases onboard.
“It is unacceptable to continue to ignore the crew change humanitarian crisis and refuse seafarers the right to return home, to proper medical attention, or to relieve tired crew on ships. We should not, and cannot, tolerate situations like the Vega Dream arising, where AMSA allowed this ship to leave Australian waters despite cases of infected crew on board in urgent need of medical attention,” Barcellona said.
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