New Zealand looks at levy options to fund seafarer welfare

As Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) informs, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) seeks public review of maritime levy options to fund seafarers’ welfare.

Since 2019, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has been seeking ways to deliver changes to welfare funding mechanisms, in response to the New Zealand Seafarer Welfare Board’s (SWB), welfare stakeholders, and Human Rights at Seas calls for effective and sustainable changes.

This work forms part of the wider Human Rights at Sea Maritime Levy Campaign which aims to improve welfare standards and facilities for all seafarers globally.

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.

Furthermore, the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) is the primary vehicle for implementing international maritime obligations, including those arising from the MLC. Maritime levies on shipping under the MTA can be used for a wide range of shipping-related purposes, however, those purposes do not include seafarer welfare services.

In March 2021, amendments to maritime levy laws were passed, specifying that levy funds must be used to improve seafarers’ welfare, as opposed to the previous situation where seafarers’ welfare was not a mandatory expenditure from the proceeds of the maritime levy.

As informed, MNZ is now holding a public consultation and is proposing increases to the Maritime Levies and Oil Pollution Levies to ensure sufficient and sustainable funding. The consultation will run from 19 July to 16 August 2023 and will seek input and an opportunity for all people and organisations that receive the benefits of Maritime NZ’s performance and fund the organization to carry out its regulatory functions, to engage on potential changes to levies.

It cannot be overstated how crucial it is for New Zealand and other coastal states globally to get this process right. Any kind of failure could lead to a major setback for all providers of maritime welfare, hindering their ability to access guaranteed funding to maintain and enhance support for seafarers.

..HRAS commented.