Australia allows crew changes for non-cruise seafarers
The Australian Government has allowed non-cruise maritime crews to carry out crew changes, helping alleviate the crisis seafarers have been faced with amid COVID-19 restrictive measures.
Announcing the decision last week, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the Australian Government, all states and territories will implement an immediate exemption for non-cruise maritime crew from quarantine arrangements to provide for the transiting to and from their places of work with agreed documentation.
The states and territories were given clearance to adopt additional protocols in consultation with industry that creates protection for crews on board vessels.
Furthermore, they will put in place penalties for companies and individuals that breach the requirements of the exemption set to be reviewed on June 1, 2020.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has been very critical of the Australian Government’s handling of the pandemic and the impact it has had on the seafarers and port workers.
In particular, MUA clamped down on the treatment of more than 15,000 international crew from more than 50 nationalities engaged in the cruise ship industry in Australian waters.
The union was calling for assistance to the crews left stranded in Australian waters. However, the country instead ordered all foreign cruise ships to leave its waters as soon as possible.
The decision came on the back of an increasing number of COVID-19 infections linked to cruise ship passengers.
Furthermore, safety concerns have been raised in relation to the ability of foreign ships and crews to dock at Australian ports and handle cargo without being checked for COVID-19, even when their steaming time was under 14 days.
Based on the latest information from MUA, all ships’ crew coming into Darwin port will undergo health checks for COVID-19 symptoms.
Under the latest border force regulations, if a vessel arrives within 14-days from their last international port of call, all crew must remain on-board while the vessel is berthed in Australia.
The crew members are able to disembark to conduct essential vessel functions but they must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while performing these functions and while non-crew members are on board.
In addition, seafarers are encouraged to restrict their interaction with non-crew members to critical communication to ensure the safe operation and loading/unloading of the vessel.