The Government is fulfilling its pre-election commitment to allow more support to seafarers visiting New Zealand, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.
The Maritime Transport Act will be amended through the Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill to allow maritime levies to be used to provide support services coordinated by the Seafarers Welfare Board.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said COVID-19 has impacted massively on international shipping lines and this has meant seafarers need support.
“Border and health restrictions often mean crews are out at sea for months on end with limited ability to contact their families.
“The Seafarers Welfare Board provides support and services to seafarers who are vital to maintaining New Zealand’s global trade lines.
“For example, they ensured wifi units were made available for ships calling at New Zealand ports, providing a connection to 794 ships. This gives seafarers the chance to connect with their families after months at sea and Board staff communicating with them provides an avenue to raise concerns and complaints.
“The Seafarers Welfare Board currently relies on donations to coordinate facilities at our ten main ports. By giving them long-term funding certainty, we will meet our international commitments and ensure that services to support seafarers’ wellbeing continue to be provided,” Michael Wood said.
The Government is providing interim funding through the Essential Transport Connectivity Scheme for services coordinated by the Board in 2020/21. The Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill will be passed before mid-year.
As a party to the Maritime Labour Convention, New Zealand must ensure that seafarers on ships visiting its ports have access to welfare services necessary for their health and well-being, promote the development of welfare facilities, and encourage the development of welfare boards.
Maritime NZ will enter into service delivery arrangements with the Seafarers Welfare Board, which will be paid for from maritime levies. The aim of the arrangement would be to provide secure funding for core welfare services, rather than replace all funding that the Board currently generates. The Board helps run seafarers’ welfare centres and provides services such as toll-calls, email/internet, money exchange, access to counselling and books.
Maritime levies under section 191 of the Maritime Transport Act can be used for a wide range of shipping-related and regulatory purposes, but those purposes do not include seafarer welfare services at the moment