The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has helped arrange repatriation for two seafarers who were stranded in Queensland, Australia, by Covid-19.
The ITF attributes this success to the establishment of port welfare boards in Queensland and urges other ports to create their own committees to support seafarers, 400,000 of whom are currently stranded worldwide due to the crew change crisis.
Crew changes in Queensland are permitted, but seafarers must follow Maritime Safety Queensland's Code of Conduct for Intrastate travel involving maritime crew changes.
'Let me make this very clear to the international maritime industry: you can repatriate in Queensland and seafarers can have shore leave. We are here to support them,' says Sarah Maguire, ITF Inspector at the International Transport Workers' Federation, who helped to organise the repatriation of the two seafarers.
'This is only possible in Queensland because of the willingness of the maritime industry to work together as a port welfare board,' she adds.
Gladstone, Queensland, was the first Australian port to establish a local welfare committee under a scheme promoted by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), with the nearby port of Brisbane also an early adopter. The Gladstone Port Welfare Committee has now been in operation since 2015.
These welfare boards are tripartite maritime committees that bring together seafarers, ship owners and government to support seafarers.
'We took the pilot project seriously in the port of Brisbane and the port of Gladstone. We managed to find structure and balance between differing agendas to continually achieve world-class and world-first outcomes,' says Ms Maguire.
'Our boards, especially Gladstone, have dealt with abandonment, seafarers' welfare centre closures, extreme cases of seafarer abuse and now our biggest challenge, Covid-19.
'I hope other countries take note, create local boards, and understand that tripartite is so incredibly valuable for seafarers' welfare.'