Australia cracks down on crew changes

Australia is cracking down on ships where seafarers are working beyond their original contract lengths.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has outlined its new approach to the crew change crunch effective through to October. Crew calling Australian waters can only work for a maximum of 11 months with certain caveats. A master must have a crew change plan before stay onboard can reach the 14-month period, approved by the ship’s flag state.

If a crewmember is found not to have a valid seafarer employment agreement (SEA), he or she will need to be repatriated. Any vessel found not meeting minimum safe manning requirements will not be able to leave port.

There will be no extensions of service without taking leave beyond 14 months unless the master or owner or both demonstrate satisfactorily to AMSA that all possible efforts have been expended to repatriate the seafarer without success and the seafarer has provided written confirmation accepting the extension.

Splash understands a number of ships have been detained in Australia in recent days over crewing issues. 

In related crew repatriation news, Middle Eastern airline Etihad has just unveiled its flight schedule for the first half of July, which links its base in Abu Dhabi with many of the world’s most important shipping centres, as well as crew hub, Manila. 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. This problem is too big for AMSA, which has no competencies beyond some maritime safety and environmental rules. Classification Societies and ship managers are really devious and sly people, they will complete all formalities required by AMSA for sure, claiming to be different from the rest of shipmamanagers and demostrating how they are prevailIing on the highest side of market. But on deck level, nothing will be done. Crew managers and class societies will keep charging millions of dollars to owners for surveys and crew changes never done, and the wellfare of workers will keep getting worse.

      1. Charterers, shipping companies and pools pay little attention to AMSA inspections. They trade with ships that do not belong to them. If AMSA detains a ship, the pressure rests on the Captain’s shoulders, who will start to work 24 hours without any type of labor guarantee. In the end, AMSA could be overloading an exhausted man !!

  2. Very good of AMSA to insist that crew must be changed out if they exceed contact conditions BUT is the Australian Government going to help out and agree to allow crew ashore for repatriation home and for replacements to be flown into Australian to join their ships? It is not helpful making up rules that cannot be executed. It will be a really great news for our long suffering seafarers if Australia steps up on this vital issue and follows Hong Kong’s lead on seafarer repatriations. Without seafarers keeping international shipping alive there will be no exports of Australian iron ore and coal.

  3. Again an AMSA paper tiger act. On paper they are the best for safety and crew, but practical one of the worse. If they are real concerned they should allow and active cooperate with crew transfers in ALL ports of Australia. Now many local governments make it impractical to do a crew change.

  4. All good and well if there are flights going to your country of residence. South Africa is still locked down. How do we get off?

    1. You should inform the consular authority of your country to obtain all the necessary cooperation and authorizations.

  5. And yet Australian borders still close and not ready to make crew change in every port of Australia ….here im one year onboad and our voyage were only china and Australia both close borders for crew change…

  6. When there are no transport connections with the country of the sailor, shipmanager should look for alternative destinations to which crew may be deemed to have better connections!! For example, flying from Australia to Europe( from 1st July all borders are open!!) And from Europe you can arrange planes or ships to everywhere!!

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