Following the COVID-19 crisis and the crew change matter that has presented within the shipping community, Maritime New Zealand designated seafarer welfare representatives as “essential workers”.
In fact, Maritime New Zealand provided its recommendations concerning port welfare service providers in terms of their role, available support and the access that they can gain to seafarers.
Regarding ship visiting by seafarers’ welfare organisations and about shore leave for seafarers, Maritime NZ highlighted:
Seafarer welfare representatives would be considered “essential workers” under the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Transport.
Seafarer welfare representatives are permitted by the ports to enter the port area and access the vessels in ports where there is a representative.
The importance of seafarer welfare is paramount, particularly during this period of lockdown. As such, it is vital that they are provided with the correct care and attention from ports.
Under Level 4 some ports were not providing transport services for seafarer welfare services from the gate to the ship.
Under Level 3 it is requested that such transport services be provided, with appropriate PPE and distancing measures as are applied to other transport activities within the Port, noting that seafarer welfare workers are considered as essential workers.
There is a desire by ports that, if a ship requires wi-fi for the crew, this will be provided. While there is variation on how this is delivered, the intent is that it will be available.
Once a ship’s crew has completed 14 days from their last overseas port (or crew change at sea if this occurred, and assuming: there is no suspicion of infection on board the ship; the seafarer(s) are not under any specific restriction due to recent overseas travel, or COVID19 cases, or close contact of a case), then seafarers should be treated in the same manner as other New Zealanders – the ship is effectively their “bubble” – they are able to go ashore.