Who will follow Australia’s lead in setting a crew change date?

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.

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. Why only on Feb 28?

    It’s already illegal according to MLC. Exemption should be made only when it is impossible to repatriate seafarers.

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