Australia to revert to pre-Covid maximum onboard service limits for seafarers


FILE PHOTO: / Zoya_Yakovleva

Australia is set to end interim regulations that have allowed seafarers to work beyond the maximum time limits set by international maritime labor regulations amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced on Monday that from February 28, 2021, the interim COVID arrangements that allowed seafarers to serve more than 11 months on board ships will end.

Under the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), eleven months is the maximum period that a seafarer can serve on board a ship without authorization. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures, AMSA said it was forced to take “a pragmatic approach to comply with this requirement” as hundreds of thousands of seafarers are blocked from working beyond the initial scope of their employment contracts.

The so-called crew change crisis prompted AMSA in June to issue temporary arrangements for the maximum period of service on board sailors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the past six months, AMSA has monitored the level of compliance and intervened to ensure the repatriation of seafarers whose time on board was excessive. AMSA has now published a new maritime advisory, Maritime Advisory 10/2020, indicating that a return to international requirements, not exceeding 11 consecutive months on board, will be applied from February 28, 2021 ”, said the ‘AMSA in a statement.

This means that effective February 28, 2021, AMSA will revert to the compliance and enforcement approach outlined in Maritime Advisory 17/2016 regarding the maximum continuous period a seafarer may serve on board a ship without taking leave.

AMSA Chief Operating Officer Allan Schwartz said while regulators’ flexibility was needed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping sailors on board ships for more than 11 months is not sustainable in the future.

“In our opinion, vessel operators have had sufficient time to adjust to the COVID-19 world and develop new plans for the repatriation of sailors and crew changes,” said Schwartz.

“Seafarers have taken on a heavy burden during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping global trade going and keeping our economies moving by delivering the vital supplies we all need. But it came at a personal cost to the sailors who spent more time on board the ships, unable to take time off ashore due to mandatory quarantine and separated from friends and family.

“It is time for the sailors to be recognized for their efforts and we are all making the effort to get them home on time,” added Schwartz.


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