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MISSION to Seafarers held its first annual parliamentary lunch at the New South Wales Parliament on Friday.

The keynote speaker, AMSA executive director of operations Michael Drake outlined how the needs of seafarers have shifted with global events.

“Without a doubt the strongest influences shaping the maritime sector over recent times has not been technology or automation, it’s been the pandemic,” he said.

“While the pandemic has achieved widespread consensus that conditions for seafarers urgently need to improve, achieving better conditions will take some time.”

Mr Drake said recently there’s been a better focus to ensure seafarers worldwide are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“But the latest Maritime Labour Convention report, which will be released in the coming weeks on the AMSA website, indicates that there is still an ongoing need for improving in other areas,” he said.

“In 2021, AMSA received 280 complaints from seafarers. While this is a decrease from the previous year, it is still a concern. The prevalent issues that we respond to remain constant over the years, and the indicate a focused need for improving conditions of employment, accommodation and recreation facilities on ships, food and catering, basic human rights, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection for crews.”

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Mr Drake said while it was pleasing that operators are slowly adjusting to the pandemic, the numbers of complaints remain high, and we need to do something about it.

“Sufficient time has now passed for the companies to develop new plans for seafarer repatriation and crew changes,” he said.

Mr Drake said, whatever the future holds, AMSA will continue to protect and uphold the rights of seafarers, along with organisations such as Mission to Seafarers.

“The work of the Mission to Seafarers should be the icing on the cake of meeting seafarers’ needs. Seafarers need to be paid and have their living and working conditions provided by their employers at a level that must not be dependent on welfare services. The industry must do more,” he said.

“I acknowledge the indispensable role MTS plays in supporting seafarers’ welfare and trust they will be able to do so long into the future.”

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