New Zealander Seafarers Left Stranded

Around the globe, New Zealand seafarers are stranded with little chance of a way home, due to the strict Covid-19 travel regulations put in place by the New Zealand Government.  

The government has repeatedly advised New Zealand seafarers that they are to apply for a Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) place via the MIQ website with the rest of the general public. This leaves seafarers, with scarce communication resources competing with bots and computer scripts to try to win an allocation in a MIQ facility.  

This frequently means seafarers are having to spend additional months onboard their vessels and away from their families. This uncertainty places immense stress on their mental and physical well-being.  

Currently, there is no transport corridor extended to New Zealand seafarers because, unlike their international counterparts, New Zealand seafarers have not been granted the privileges of essential, key or critical workers by the New Zealand Government. Without seafarers, the New Zealand economy will come to a halt and its imports and exports cease. 

It is through complaints from lifelong seafarers, all in similar positions that the Ombudsman has decided to investigate the unfair treatment of New Zealand's seafarers.  
They have a large archive of communication between seafarers and the Ombudsman. 

Recently, after receiving complaints from a substantial number of New Zealand seafarers, the Ombudsman has agreed to investigate issues with MBIE’s (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) process for New Zealand seafarers accessing MIQ (Managed Isolation & Quarantine).  

Definition of the terms "seafarer" & "ship or vessel" 

The Maritime Labour Convention and other relevant legislation use the terms "seafarer" & "ship or vessel". 

The definition of these words under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 is basically "anyone that gets paid to do a job on anything that floats". 

Rig workers, fishermen, superyacht crew, seismic survey specialists & merchant mariners are covered by these definitions. 
So 'recreational yachties' (unpaid) do not fall under this category. 

Maritime Labour Convention 

The Maritime Labour Convention is unambiguously clear. As a signatory to the MLC, the New Zealand Government is obliged under section B2.5.2 to: 

  • “Provide every possible practical assistance to a seafarer stranded in a foreign port pending repatriation.” 
  • “Have regard to whether the proper provision is made for the return of seafarers employed on a ship that that flies the flag of a foreign country who are put ashore in a foreign port for reasons for which they are not responsible." 

What you can do as an affected Seafarer: 

If you haven’t already, use the three avenues of complaint to the New Zealand Government open to you, all listed below. They have to reply. 

Most importantly, use the term “seafarer” & “vessel” in all your correspondence, as all legislation evolves around those terms. Do not describe any other aspect of your job other than being a seafarer. Do not mention the words yacht, superyacht, private charter boat, fishing boat, geologist, or oil rig. Stick to 'vessel' and the script that you are due to get off the vessel on completion of your contract, you have nowhere to go and your transit visa is due to expire. 

  1. Lay a complaint with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) via their website:  https://www.hrc.co.nz/complaint-form/ 
    The basis of this complaint is that as a seafarer you are being indirectly discriminated against, as your poor quality satellite-based internet connection precludes you from having a fair chance of obtaining a voucher under the current online MIQ booking system. 
  2. Lay an MLC complaint with Maritime NZ from their website link https://services.maritimenz.govt.nz/mlc/ 
  3. Lay the same complaint with MBIE https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/open-government-and-official-information/transparency-statement/complaints-and-feedback/ 

The focus of these two complaints being that the government is in breach of section B2.5.2 of the Maritime Labour Convention, as they are failing to provide every possible practical assistance to a seafarer stranded in a foreign port pending repatriation. 

Professional Mariners Lobbying for change 

We have much to thank the comprehensive work, extensive research and communications carried out by Kevin Judkins, part of a group of professional mariners who have been lobbying for change to the MIQ system, to allow New Zealand seafarers access to return home through the existing Maritime allocation within the MIQ framework. They have over 300 New Zealand seafarers (including yacht crew) on an email data base following what is happening.  

Kevin is a semi-retired Master Mariner with 44 years at sea - mostly spent on oil tankers and the offshore oil & gas industry. He is currently temping on the Auckland bunker barge Awanuia. He spent 70 days in quarantine last year in New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia, whilst working on a semi-sub drilling rig Development Driller.

He is also an author - writing a book on his experiences on the Rena salvage, '120 Days at Astrolabe'. 

For anyone wishing to support this movement, or to contact Kevin Judkins directly.

Please note: The content of this article has been provided by The Superyacht Services Guide.