Media Release

Ports Australia signs Neptune Declaration

Posted on
May 14, 2021

Ports Australia has signed the Neptune Declaration, joining more than 800 companies worldwide with a shared responsibility of collaboration to overcome the seafarer crew change crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of seafarers who bear the load of roughly 90% of world trade have been stranded aboard ships throughout the pandemic because of the widespread inability for crew changeovers to occur or for shore leave to be granted.

As per Global Maritime Forum’s website:

The Neptune Declaration urges the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:

- Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines

- Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice

- Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes

- Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers

The crisis continues to ravage seafarers, now with heightened challenges given the recent COVID-19 outbreaks across the Indian subcontinent, a development having flow-on effects throughout the international supply chain.

Ports Australia strongly supports and encourages the recognition of seafarers as essential workers which will ultimately be a stepping stone to facilitating strong testing, vaccination, and crew changeover regimes.

After the Australian Federal Government enacted its class exemption process for maritime crew in April 2020, turmoil continued as the state and territory jurisdictions around the nation enforced their own restrictions and protocols, causing complex and often near unsolvable challenges for cross-border travel and crew changeovers. At this point, Ports Australia called for the Australian Federal Government to bring more transparency to the various governments’ management of the pandemic via a routinely updated document issued by the Federal Government in collaboration with each state or territories’ most relevant government entity, which concisely outlined the current protocols around the nation. This initiative, while not necessarily aiding to facilitate crew changeovers, would at least provide basic information to global shipping companies to inform their decisions on the best ways to support their staff.  

Ports Australia still urges the Federal Government to consider this necessity given the continued crisis we face. This responsibility had to be taken up by industry and Ports Australia commends Shipping Australia on their continued work in this space (find their Shipping Update here).

While this is no time for celebration, Ports Australia must congratulate the ongoing efforts of other industry leaders to advocate for the welfare of seafarers on issues like recognition as essential workers and COVID-19 testing and vaccination. Some of those leaders include Maritime Industry Australia Limited, Shipping Australia, Maritime Union of Australia, and International Transport Workers Federation.

A special mention must go to one of Ports Australia’s members in Maritime Safety Queensland who have been the undeniable leader in facilitating crew changeovers safely and efficiently. Queensland remains the easiest Australian jurisdiction to conduct crew changeovers because of MSQ’s stringent safe corridor transport of crew and COVID-19 testing regime.

For the ports and other members of the supply chain, what can you do while governments continue their regulatory work?

o Collaborate with your state/territory government to ensure the safe passage of seafarers in and out of the port if and when crew changeovers can be facilitated.

o Liaise with your local Mission to Seafarers (map of establishments here).

o Contact your relevant industry bodies who have nation-wide awareness and contacts.

o Many ports have supplied seafarers aboard docked vessels with care packages containing food and goods.

o Similarly, several ports supply wi-fi to vessels so seafarers onboard can contact home.

Hamper being hoisted up to a seafarer (credit:Pilbara Ports Authority) 

To assist overcoming the seafarer crisis, Ports Australia will continue to:

o Facilitate dialogue amongst the ports sector via our membership on best practice for supporting seafarers.

o Liaise with governments around Australia via various forums to ensure policy and regulation are informed by industry and that any incidents involving seafarers are attended to.

Relevant resources Ports Australia finds useful:

o Shipping Australia’s COVID-19 Shipping Update

o SBS’s COVID-19 measures across Australia's states and territories

o Global Maritime Forum’s Neptune Declaration resources (including a Crew Change Indicator and a Best Practice for Charters)

o Mission to Seafarers’ map of ports

o Protocol for maritime crew members joining or signing off a vessel in Queensland

 Media: Josh Appleton – E:

Ports Australia is the peak industry body representing port authorities and corporations, both publicly and privately owned, at the national level.

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