Australia: No more COVID-19 extensions of seafarers’ onboard service

Written by Nick Blenkey
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AMSA Surveyor {Image: Austra;ian Maritime Safety Authority]

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says that from February 28, 2021 the interim COVID arrangements that have permitted seafarers to serve longer than 11 months on-board ships will end.

Under the Maritime Labor Convention the normal maximum period that a seafarer can serve aboard a vessel without leave is 11 months. Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures, AMSA has taken a pragmatic approach to compliance with this requirement.

During the past six months, AMSA has monitored the level of compliance and intervened to ensure the repatriation of seafarers whose durations on board were excessive. AMSA has now issued a new marine notice, Marine Notice 10/2020, stating that a return to international requirements, of no more than 11 continuous months on board, will be applied from 28 February 2021.

General Manager of Operations Allan Schwartz said that while flexibility on the part of regulators was necessary when the COVID-19 pandemic began, keeping seafarers on board ships for longer than 11 months is not sustainable going forward.

“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,” Schwartz said. “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.”

“It’s time the seafarers are recognized for their efforts and we all make the effort to get them home on time,” he added.

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