THE Australian Maritime Safety Authority has announced that from 28 February 2021, the interim COVID arrangements that have permitted seafarers to serve longer than 11 months on-board ships will end.

Under the Maritime Labour 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 duration onboard were excessive.

Temporary Marine Notice 10/2020 (supersedes 04/2020) which outlined AMSA’s approach to maximum service periods for seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be cancelled on 28 February 2021 and we will revert back to the enforcement approach in the original Marine Notice 17/2016.

This means AMSA inspectors will verify compliance with Regulation 2.4, of the Maritime Labour Convention ensuring seafarers serve no longer than 11 months continuously onboard a vessel.

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,” Mr 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 onboard ships, unable to take shore leave due to mandatory quarantine and separated from their friends and families.

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