Australia to end crew contract extensions
Australia will end its interim COVID-19 crew contract extension measures in February 2021. The temporary measures introduced due to the pandemic had permitted seafarers to serve on board ships beyond 11 months, The Standard Club said in its release.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has announced that from 28 February 2021 continuous service on board shall be limited to 11 months despite the pandemic continuing. AMSA explained that “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.”
Currently seafarers are able to serve continuously on board for up to 13 months with no plans for repatriation having to be provided or restrictions on the ship or its owners providing the Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) is valid, has been signed by all parties and is being complied with. Until 28 February 2021, where the period of service is more than 11 months but less than 13 months the Master will be required to provide a plan for the seafarers repatriation (approved by the Flag State) that results in the repatriation of the seafarer before the seafarer has served a maximum continuous period of 14 months. Where the period of service is more than 13 months the vessel will be prohibited from departing port until AMSA is provided with a plan for the seafarers repatriation which is approved by the Flag State and results in the repatriation of the seafarer before the seafarer has served a maximum continuous period of 14 months.
AMSA has emphasized that seafarers have shouldered the burden of maintaining global trade and economies by serving on ships under extended crew contracts and that this has come at a personal cost to the seafarers. Such crew have been unable to take shore leave and been unable to visit friends and family due to mandatory quarantine and other COVID-19-related restrictions. AMSA alluded to the toll on the mental health of seafarers that has been caused by the pandemic and the extended crew contracts.
Australia has detained at least five ships since June 2020 due to crew having employment contracts that have expired.
The club has provided a multitude of advice on seafarer mental health, available on the right.