Following the announcement that New Zealand will allow a funding to boost seafarers’ welfare services, as part of its commitment to allow more support to seafarers visiting the country, it was confirmed that this law will become effective from July 1st.
In particular, the New Zealand Minister of Transport, the Honourable Michael Wood 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.
As explained, 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 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.