NZ Transport Minister Updates HRAS on Seafarer Welfare Legislation

New Zealand Minister of Transport, the Honourable Michael Wood
New Zealand Minister of Transport, the Honourable Michael Wood

Published Apr 21, 2021 6:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The New Zealand Minister of Transport, the Honourable Michael Wood, has confirmed to Human Rights at Sea the forthcoming legislative change to the Maritime Transport Act for long-term and sustainable funding of seafarer’s centres. This follows the international report issued by the charity in April 2020, “New Zealand: Under-Funding of Seafarers’ Welfare Services and Poor MLC Compliance” drafted in direct support of the New Zealand Seafarers’ Welfare Board’s efforts to achieve this change.

In a letter received by the charitable NGO, the Minister made a number of key points updating the Government’s position.

“COVID-19 impacts on seafarer welfare have drawn attention to the financial pressures faced by the Seafarer Welfare Board (SWBNZ), the voluntary organisation whose activities fulfil New Zealand’s seafarer welfare obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (the MLC).”

“The MLC envisages that financial support for welfare services be shared across the maritime sector through measures such as levies from shipping sources, grants from public funds and voluntary industry and charitable contributions.”

“The challenges of providing welfare services in a COVID-19 environment have highlighted the need for a more secure funding approach.”

“The Maritime Transport Act (MTA) is the primary vehicle for implementing international maritime obligations, including those arising from the MLC. Maritime levies on shipping under the MTA can be used for a wide range of shipping-related purposes, however, those purposes do not include seafarer welfare services. The Government has made changes to the MTA which will remedy the situation and allow maritime levies to fund seafarer welfare services for the purposes of the MLC. This will be effective from 1 July 2021.”

“I am pleased to note that the Government has also provided interim funding for SWBNZ pending the amendments to the MTA. Through this funding the SWBNZ has achieved the following:

• From September to November 2020, SWBNZ visited and provided support services to seafarers on over 800 ships, which represents 94 percent of all ships that have entered New Zealand waters over this period.

• SBWNZ has ensured that portable Wi-Fi units are made available for ships calling at New Zealand ports and has provided a Wi-Fi connection to 794 ships.

• There are now seven paid SWBNZ staff around New Zealand including a national co-ordinator role to ensure consistent delivery of services.

• SWBNZ staff have had 756 interactions with seafarers, and visited over 300 stores to purchase essential items for seafarers.”

“The Government is committed to ensuring that its obligations under the MLC are fully given effect to.”

HRAS Comment
The New Zealand Government’s stated commitment to permanently address the issue of sustainable funding for seafarer welfare centres should be congratulated. The proposed legislative change on 1 July 2021 will be closely watched by the maritime industry, States, UN agencies and civil society.

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