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Advice to the international maritime industry during COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, owners, operators, masters and crews of international vessels may need extra information.

The Australian Department of Health is leading Australia’s response to COVID-19 and they have issued a COVID-19 fact sheet for the maritime industry. This fact sheet applies to all international voyages entering Australia, except for cruise ships. We recommend that you read this fact sheet prior to entering Australia.

The Department of Health has also published information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community that covers cleaning requirements for frequently touched surfaces and minimally touched surfaces. This advice is directly applicable to the maritime environment.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has provided a list of statements, advice from member states and other communications on its website. 

Australian ports 

There are no Australian ports closed to commercial ships. The Australian Border Force (ABF) and Biosecurity officers from the Department of Agriculture remain responsible for border clearance processes in Australian ports.   

It is highly recommended that you contact the relevant State / Territory Port Authority for the latest information for the maritime industry on managing the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Maritime Industry Australia Limited (MIAL) have made available to industry the MIAL Australian Maritime COVID-19 Border Closures Table. You can find out more information about this on the MIAL website.  

Port State Control 

AMSA continues to conduct port State control (PSC) inspections in Australia.  

We have established procedures to ensure the safety of our staff conducting port and flag state inspections during this time. This is also intended to ensure that crew on board the vessels are not exposed to any risk from AMSA personnel. 

Inspections will be suspended for any vessel where a crew member or passenger is or may be exhibiting virus symptoms or as advised by Australian Border Force and Biosecurity.  

Inspections will also be suspended where a state or local authority has implemented restrictions on our staff boarding vessels.  

Some specific considerations are outlined below.  

  • Interval of surveys and audits required by conventions: 

In the event that a ship has not complied with the requirements of the surveys, inspections and audits contained in relevant convention requirements (SOLAS Chapter I Regulation 10 etc.), the ship must provide evidence to AMSA that the flag State has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19. There should also be evidence that the ship has a plan that covers how the ship will be brought back into the regular survey or audit cycle. 

Where there is no evidence of approval from the flag State, and the ship has exceed the requirements by three (3) months, the ship will be treated in the normal manner as per the Tokyo MOU procedures.  

  • Duration of certificates 

In accordance with the relevant convention requirements, the flag State administration may extend the validity of certificates by up to three (3) months or may issue short term certificates, with a period of validity of no more than three (3) months from the expiry date of the original full term certificates. 

 In such cases, evidence must be provided to AMSA that clearly shows the flag State administration has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19 and that the ship has a plan that covers when the ship will be scheduled to be subject to the renewal survey and audits.  

Where there is no evidence of flag State approval, and the ship has exceed the requirements by three (3) months, the ship will be treated in the normal manner as per the Tokyo MOU procedures.  

  • Installation of Ballast Water Management System 

In the event that a ship cannot meet the requirements of Regulation B-3 of the Ballast Water Management Convention, due to delay of dry-docking caused by disruption from COVID-19, AMSA will seek confirmation that the flag State has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19. There should also be evidence of a plan that covers how the ship will be brought into compliance with the requirements of Regulation B-3 of BWM.  

Where there is no evidence of flag State approval and the ship has exceed the requirements by three (3) months, the ship will be treated in the normal manner as per the Tokyo MOU procedures.  

Regulated Australian Vessels (RAVs) and Foreign Flagged Vessels - Survey and dockings 

We are extending the period to undertake docking inspections required by Chapter I of SOLAS and Marine Order 31 due the impact of COVID-19.  

Where a vessel is in Class, the owner or operator should contact their classification society in the first instance.  

We are working with classification societies to develop a flexible approach to the timing of dockings, alternate means of inspections and measures to be put in place pending availability of a docking. 

For vessels not in Class, owners and operators should contact AMSA directly at FSC@amsa.gov.au for advice. 

It is AMSA’s intention to provide the same flexibility to both Classed and non-Classed vessels. 

Compliance 

While AMSA may be reducing its presence in the field in order to protect the safety of our staff and those we interact with, we will still conduct inspections as necessary, including following-up on incidents, and we will continue to fully investigate the most serious of incidents. 

AMSA will still apply its compliance and enforcement policy in cases where the risk is such that action must be taken. However, we will continue to work with you to bring your operation back into compliance and back on the water as soon as possible. 

This is a shared problem, which comes with a shared obligations and responsibilities to ensure that you can operate safety, and with as little regulatory burden as possible. 

Maritime Labour Conventions 

AMSA has adopted a pragmatic approach to Maritime Labour Convention compliance in accordance with all Tokyo MOU countries.  

We will consider the issue of extending periods of service on board ships and accept that there may be a need to apply flexibility under the circumstances.  

Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

Owners and operators will be required to provide a plan detailing why flexibility under MLC is required. This will include how the process will be managed and demonstrate that the ship’s flag State authority, the seafarer and relevant seafarer organisations have been involved and agree with the plan.  

AMSA may, on a case by case basis, have no objection to extensions of seafarer contracts. Ship owners and operators are required to provide a plan detailing why a seafarer is being extended, evidence that the seafarer’s rights are being maintained during an extension, a plan on repatriation for the seafarer after extension and agreement by the seafarer, seafarer organisations and flag State. 

At a minimum AMSA will ensure that: 

  • the company has ensured that seafarers are kept informed of the risks of infection, reasons why they are required to stay on board, any measures being taken for their protection, and arrangements for their repatriation;  
  • a valid SEA remains in force for every seafarer until repatriation. If any of the SEAs have expired, they have been extended, or new ones issued;  
  • seafarers are repatriated at the first available opportunity; and  
  • evidence is retained by both the seafarer and the company, clearly demonstrating the reason why the seafarer was asked to extend their contract. 

We will consider requests from ship owners and operators for individual cases where foreign seafarer repatriation and service periods have been impacted by travel restrictions and quarantine measures.  

Note that AMSA follows Australian Government advice on COVID-19 and is limited to what we can do under the current circumstances with limited flights availability and self-isolation restrictions in place for travellers in most countries. 

Most Australian States or Territories have closed their internal borders, and thus travel has become a non-option for most. We also understand that due to closed borders in other countries, even if a seafarer can leave Australia they may end up isolated in a foreign country unintentionally. 

We are applying guidelines recommended by port State control committee of the Toyko MOU. Please see the following media releases for further information. 

Seafarer Qualifications 

During to this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19, AMSA is extending the duration of AMSA issued Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates if they expire during the period between 26 March 2020 and 31 January 2021. 

See the marine notice for more information about the extension. 

Seafarer welfare services available to the industry 

There are a range of resources available to support Australian seafarers

Last updated: 

Saturday 19 September 2020