Purpose of this report

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is pleased to present the 2021 Australian Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) annual report. This report presents an analysis of MLC complaints, compliance and follow-up actions undertaken by AMSA in Australia for 2021.

Similar to 2020, 2021 continued to be a challenging year for seafarers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AMSA continues to take a pragmatic approach to MLC compliance in accordance with all Tokyo MOU port State control (PSC) administrations.

This report aims to present findings on key MLC data in Australian waters.

Application of the MLC

The MLC applies to all commercial vessels whether publicly or privately owned. It does not apply to fishing vessels, vessels of traditional build (such as dhows and junks), warships or naval auxiliaries or vessels not ordinarily engaged in commercial activities.

A list of the 101 member states that have ratified the convention after 20 August 2013 is available on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) website.

Australia's obligation under the MLC

In Australia, the MLC is implemented primarily through the Navigation Act 20121 and associated delegated legislation such as Marine Order 11 (Living and working conditions on vessels) 2015.

AMSA verifies compliance with the MLC by:

  • Responding to all MLC complaints from seafarers engaged on vessels in, or coming into, Australian ports.
  • Conducting port and flag State control inspections of vessels coming into Australian ports.
  • Requiring registered Australian vessels to be certified in accordance with the MLC, as given effect by Marine Order 11 (Living and working conditions on vessels) 2015.
  • Taking a leading role in supporting seafarer welfare through the Australian Seafarers’ Welfare Council.

The Australian Seafarers' Welfare Council

The MLC requires signatory countries to establish welfare boards at the port, regional and national level to support seafarer welfare. In Australia, the Australian Seafarers’ Welfare Council (ASWC) was established to ensure there is a continuous national approach in the provision of welfare services.

ASWC aims to promote seafarer welfare issues and the services available in Australian ports to support and protect seafarers.

The ASWC meets on a quarterly basis and AMSA plays a leadership (chairperson and secretariat) role in the work that ASWC aims to achieve, namely to:

  • Provide leadership in the implementation of Australia’s obligations to seafarers under the MLC
  • Assist in the establishment of a national network of seafarer support arrangements
  • Promote, encourage and support the delivery of seafarer welfare services at Australian ports

These aims are encompassed by ASWC’s strategic goals listed in Table 1 below.

Table 1 — Progress against the ASWC strategic goals for 2021

Strategic goals What we will do Progress against the strategic goals for 2021
Provide leadership in the implementation of Australia's obligations to seafarers under the MLC

Represent Australia internationally on seafarer welfare matters through the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN).

Promote awareness for ASWC, its role and vision

Maintain contact with, and membership of, the ISWAN

Promote awareness that supports seafarer welfare

In 2021 ASWC continued to promote its work through news items on the ASWC website and through social media.

ASWC continues to work closely with International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) in promoting seafarer welfare matters.

In 2021 AMSA published a number of news items on the ASWC website promoting ISWAN seafarer welfare guidance material.

AMSA is committed to supporting seafarers’ welfare. In 2021 AMSA, together with the Sailors’ Society, launched a Wellness at sea campaign to raise awareness of the wellbeing of seafarers, their families, and shore staff. The campaign aims to contribute to an industry-wide conversation about wellbeing and mental health.

AMSA published the 2020 MLC annual report.

Mental health guidance material for seafarers during COVID-19 was updated and published on the AMSA website.

Supported research as part of an international research study to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on seafarers.

Assist in the establishment of a national network of seafarer support arrangements

Encourage, support and guide the establishment of port welfare committees

Facilitate and promote a network of communication and cooperation between port welfare committees

There are now 16 port welfare committees (PWC) located in major ports around Australia.

In 2021, a new PWC was established in Bunbury and another one in Albany.

In 2021 ASWC continues to facilitate and promote engagement between PWCs through invitations to ASWC meetings to discuss updates and areas of concerns. This is an ongoing commitment.

Promote, encourage and support the delivery of seafarer welfare services at Australian ports

Identify seafarer needs and future welfare requirements in line with shipping and crew trends

Promote the need for seafarers to be treated as valued and respected members of our port communities

Assist in investigating ongoing funding opportunities that may assist in providing sustainable seafarer welfare services

Continue to work with PWCs and port authorities to facilitate Wi-Fi access for seafarers in port welfare centres and in ports around Australia. Wi-Fi systems have been installed at the two new PWCs in Albany and Bunbury.

Supported the distribution of care packs given to vessels.

Promoted localised, consistent approach to a funding model (i.e. Gladstone, Fremantle) to fund seafarer welfare facilities/services when in port.

AMSA will continue to fund the 2022 Mission to Seafarers Calendar to the seafarers. The calendar will have the ASWC QR code – providing seafarers with the opportunity to contact AMSA directly.

Seafarer welfare campaigns and research

There is emerging evidence that seafarers have experienced high levels of psychological distress, depression, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic2 3. In addition, recent research identified that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of the pre-existing challenges, while also posing new challenges for the maritime industry4 5.

The work of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been critical to ensure the global supply chain continues to operate unhindered. But this has not been without challenges, with seafarers' work and life onboard, impacted.

The COVID-19 pandemic remains an ongoing health crisis with focus now diverted to ensure seafarers worldwide are fully vaccinated. AMSA has continued its support for seafarers, focusing on mental health at sea by publishing and sharing resources on our website. This can be accessed at Mental health guidance for seafarers during COVID-19 (amsa.gov.au).

AMSA also conducted research and ran campaigns focusing on mental health at sea.

In 2021 AMSA was involved in a joint international study examining the effects of COVID-19 on seafarers with a report and papers6 7 published on the findings of this survey - ‘Seafarers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.’ The study identified that the pandemic contributed to significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety in the maritime industry. This is concerning as seafarers were already identified to be at a higher risk for mental health problems.

Webinar — Understanding the effects of COVID-19 on seafarers

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to seafarers that impacted occupational safety and health. This prompted researchers around the world to assess the impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of seafarers. AMSA brought these researchers together in a webinar, which was well attended with over 60 participants.

Four panels of researchers and professionals in this field contributed to the discussion which included:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of international seafarers. Over 700 seafarers responded. One of the key findings is the importance of connectivity to their families as well as institutional support. Read the finalised report.
  • preliminary analysis of their longitudinal survey of UK seafarers. This highlighted that the impact of COVID-19 was found to be unequally felt by seafarers depending on their employment terms and conditions.
  • results from 752 international seafarers who stayed either onboard or at home in early 2020 (March-May). The study reveals that prolonged periods on board and at home represent serious threats to seafarers’ social, mental, physical and economic wellbeing.
  • information on the impact that COVID-19 had on seafarers from the mental health specialists that are counselling seafarers on arrival in Australia. Hunterlink delivers mental health and wellbeing support to any international seafarer who arrives in an Australian port.

Wellness at sea campaign

The Wellness at sea campaign was delivered by AMSA in partnership with the Sailors’ Society and ran between June and December 2021. The campaign provided a range of digital resources (from podcasts to videos) available through a dedicated AMSA campaign website to support the health and wellbeing of seafarers, their families, and shore staff.  The content developed for this campaign can be accessed at https://www.amsa.gov.au/wellness-sea/wellness-sea.

The campaign was well received with high reach achieved through content, generating nearly three million impressions across organic and paid (Facebook) social media channels, and Google ads. This generated over 9,500 visitors to AMSA’s website to view and download resources. Most website traffic came from Australia (50%), followed by India (15.5%), the US (2.2%), Egypt (1.85%), Indonesia (1.58%) and the Philippines (1.4%).


Footnotes

1 The requirements of the MLC are met through various legislative instruments not limited to the Navigation Act.

2 Baygi, F., Khonsari, N. M., Agoushi, et al., (2021). Prevalence and associated factors of psychosocial distress among seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Psychiatry, 21, 222. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021-03197-z

3 Qin, W., Li, L., Zhu, D., Ju, C., Bi, P., & Li, S. (2021). Prevalence and risk factors of depression symptoms among Chinese seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 11, e048660. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-048660

4 Pauksztat, B., Andrei, D. M., & Grech, M. R., (2021). Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of seafarers: A comparison using matched samples. Safety Science 146 (2022) 105542

5 Shan, D. (2021). Occupational health and safety challenges for maritime key workers in the global COVID-19 pandemic. International Labour Review.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ilr.12220

6 Pauksztat, B., Grech, M. R., and Momoko, K. (2022) The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on seafarers’ mental health and chronic fatigue: Beneficial effects of onboard peer support, external support and Internet access. Marine Policy, Volume 137, March 2022, 104942

7 Paukztat, B., Andrei, D. M. and Grech M. R., Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of seafarers: A comparison using matched samples. Safety Science, Volume 146, February 2022, 105542