The introduction of a dedicated maritime levy in New Zealand is visibly maximising support for seafarers, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.

The maritime levy contribution secures sustainable support for seafarers’ welfare services under a legislative change to the Maritime Transport Act 1994, which now explicitly provides for the funding of these services.

This change is the positive outcome of a campaign led by the New Zealand Seafarers’ Welfare Board in 2020 with the support of Human Rights at Sea.

Coming into force last year, the amendment has reshaped a previously problematic seafarers’ welfare landscape identified by HRAS in an independent report

It marked the first success of the NGO’s broader Maritime Levy Campaign, which identifies potential deficiencies in coastal states’ maritime legislation which may impede the provision of seafarers’ welfare support.

The campaign aligns with obligations set out in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, under which signatories are required to promote the continuous development of port welfare facilities and to ensure seafarers can easily benefit from them.

Evidence of impact in New Zealand

New Zealand Transport Minister Michael Wood has confirmed to HRAS via written correspondence that the amendment to the Maritime Transport Act 1994 has laid the foundation for long-term funding for seafarers’ welfare services.

“However, until Maritime New Zealand undertakes a funding review … the Government continues to provide support for seafarer welfare services through funding provided to Maritime NZ specifically for that purpose,” Mr Wood said.

The funding review will determine how much revenue is required for Maritime New Zealand to undertake its regulatory and compliance roles.

Mr Wood said the government funding has so far provided for on-board pastoral care, counselling, and mental health support for seafarers.

“Extra mechanisms to facilitate communication with crew’s friends and family through portable Wi-Fi units has also been provided,” he said.

“Other means of welfare support include providing transport to and from welfare centres and town for those who can take shore leave to access Wi-Fi, online shopping options, and some limited recreation.”

Pursuing change in Australia

Following the evident success in New Zealand, HRAS continues to independently explore the potential for a similar legislative amendment in Australia focusing on shore-based welfare facilities.

Last month, HRAS published Counsel’s legal opinion on the opportunity to update legislation to help the government realign its support for seafarers with its MLC obligations.

Counsel has found that the current system in Australia is not meeting seafarer’s needs and has suggested a modest change to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990 (Cth).

HRAS Comment

“We are delighted to see the impact that has been achieved in New Zealand. Seafarers are an absolutely essential part of the global economy and it’s vital that their welfare needs are sustainably addressed.” David Hammond said.

“Rolling out the success we’ve had with the Maritime Levy Campaign to other countries is a priority for Human Rights at Sea. Australia is our current focus, and we are hopeful that the Australian Government will recognise the need to meet their obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention.”