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Australia cracks down on Covid-19 tours of duty extensions

14 July 2020

Australia is enforcing a maximum continuous period that a seafarer can serve onboard a vessel without taking leave, which could see ships prevented from departing Australian ports if crew have spent too long at sea.

The move, which came into force on 1 July 2020, will target ships where seafarers are working beyond their original contract lengths during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has issued notice that, until 1 October 2020, no seafarer can work at sea beyond 13 months without a rest. AMSA has urged all ship owners and managers to comply with the guidelines as enforced by the Australian port state authorities.

The protocol, which seeks to apply the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) requirements on continuous maximum working periods at sea and allows for the two additional months agreed by ITF at the start of the pandemic, is good news for the thousands of seafarers stuck onboard.

In June, Nautilus International called for action to end the 'inhumane' extension of seafarer contracts, after the Panama Ship Registry announced that they can now be extended by a further three months and up to 17 months where crew change is not possible due to the outbreak of the Covid-19.

Australia's new guidelines will be enforced where:

  1. A seafarer has a valid Seafarers Employment Agreement (SEA) and has served continuously on board a vessel for more than 11 months, and less than 13 months without taking leave, the master will be required to provide a plan for the seafarer's repatriation which is approved by the flag state, and results in the repatriation of the seafarer before they have served a maximum continuous period of 14 months.
  2. A seafarer has a valid Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) and has continuously served on board a vessel for more than 13 months, the vessel will be prohibited from departing port until AMSA is provided with a plan for the seafarer's repatriation which is approved by the flag State and results in the repatriation of the seafarer before they have served a maximum continuous period of 14 months.


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