New Zealand amends legislation to provide seafarer welfare funding

In a historic move, the New Zealand government has updated its Maritime Transport Act 1994 to provide funding for seafarer welfare services.  The legislative amendment comes into force on July 1.

Following an information disclosure request to Maritime New Zealand on 24 June, figures obtained by Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) highlighted that the legislative amendment will affect 10 ports and annual visiting crew numbers, which have varied between a high 163,608 in 2019 to a low of 82,103 (until March 2020) with an average over the past four years of 129,150.

In future, New Zealand seafarer welfare support services will be financially reinforced with every seafarer who visits the country being able to benefit from the investment into their working lives.

CEO of HRAS, David Hammond, commented: “Today is a truly historic day for seafarers globally with a proven legislative route to long-term welfare service sustainability and financial security being applied through the maritime levy system. The hard work undertaken by the New Zealand Seafarer’s Welfare Board has set a precedent that can now be mirrored by coastal states around the world to benefit all seafarers going forward. Human Rights at Sea is pleased to have been able to support this change.”

New Zealand government’s historic move

In October 2020, the New Zealand Government announced that it intended to amend the Maritime Transport Act 1994 to enable the existing maritime levy to fund the services required for seafarers’ wellbeing. The then 2020 Labour Government’s transport policy and manifesto for Workplace Relations and Safety stated:

“Ensuring that Seafarer Welfare Centres provide better services. A report by Human Rights at Sea earlier this year found that seafarers’ shore-based welfare facilities and services are inadequate and at Akaroa there is no seafarers’ centre at all. 

“Under the Maritime Labour Convention New Zealand has an obligation to provide for crews who come ashore in New Zealand but this is currently funded largely through charitable sources which isn’t sufficient to provide adequate facilities. 

“Labour will ensure that Seafarer Welfare Centres provide services to the level required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 by amending the Maritime Transport Act 1994 to enable the maritime levy to fund the services required for seafarers’ wellbeing.”

On the 9th March 2021, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced that the Government was fulfilling its pre-election commitment to allow more support to seafarers visiting New Zealand.

Prior to the passing of the Bill, Maritime levies under section 191 of the Maritime Transport Act were used for a wide range of shipping-related and regulatory purposes, but those purposes did not include seafarer welfare services.

Minister Wood stated in March 2020 that: “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,”

On 20 April 2020, Minister Wood confirmed to HRAS that: “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.”

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