The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has welcomed the announcement this week by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) that it will be ending on February 28 temporary exemptions for vessels to have seafarers onboard for longer than the 11 months maximum stipulated by the International Labour Organisation’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). The trade union is now calling on other countries to make similar commitments in a bid to resolve the ongoing crew change crisis that sees around 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea, unable to get home thanks to pandemic travel restrictions.
ITF seafarers’ and inland navigation section coordinator, Fabrizio Barcellona, said that given the world had been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic for more than eight months, regulators and the industry needed to return to respecting the rights and welfare of seafarers.
“Port state controls need to get back to doing their job and upholding seafarers’ rights,” said Barcellona. “We welcome the decision by AMSA to end their exemptions for shipowners to have crew onboard 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.”
Barcellona said Australia needed to coordinate its policy on seafarers across federal agencies and state governments better by introducing green lanes to get seafarers safely and efficiently to and from airports to ships. The same goes for many other governments, he said.
AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said earlier this week: “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.”
Splash has contacted a number of port state authorities following the Australian news this week, seeking whether they will make similar commitments. Further reports will follow.