The National Cabinet must use today’s meeting to establish “green lanes” to allow interstate travel by maritime workers, with hundreds currently unable to travel to work or get home after being at sea.
The Maritime Union of Australia said travel restrictions and border closures between Australian states and territories had led to a situation where many Australian seafarers were isolated at sea, unable to get home to their families, with replacement crew members also unable to join the vessels.
Shipping not only carries more than 98 per cent of Australia’s imports and exports, but coastal trading routes are vital for moving fuel, gas, commodities and manufactured goods between Australian ports.
“Our nation’s reliance on maritime transport to maintain continuous supply has never been more obvious than during this pandemic,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.
“The current border closure system is preventing many of the people who operate that supply chain from getting to work or returning home to their families, causing serious mental and financial hardship.
“We need genuine cooperation internationally and locally, across all levels of government and industry, to develop consistent, sustainable guidance that protects workers, the community and the maritime sector.”
Mr Crumlin wrote to the national taskforce on August 11 outlining the issues and calling for the federal government to:
- Establish and fund a dedicated task force to coordinate across state and federal government agencies;
- Work with the aviation sector to facilitate flights for seafarer’s repatriation;
- Engage labour supply countries to better coordinate repatriation procedures for international seafarers;
- Rationalise visa, permit, and exemption processes, to support crew changes directly;
- Adopt the International Maritime Organisation-recommended framework for crew joining and leaving their ships;
- Work with unions and industry to ensure supply chain integrity in the domestic industry;
- Establish “green lanes” for maritime crew repatriation;
- Protect seafarers and the community through Australia’s adherence to IMO protocols, along with Maritime Labour Convention and International Labour Organisation conventions;
- Mandate the supply of critical PPE to maritime workers; and
- Maintain testing and travel protocols specifically for maritime workers to expedite safe interstate travel.
The full letter is available here: https://www.mua.org.au/news/mua-letter-national-covid19-response-group