After four years of lobbying, sector and stakeholder engagement, and a detailed supporting report with Counsel's opinion, we are pleased to report that the New Zealand Government has committed to sustainable funding backed by legislation from a historical amendment to the Maritime Transport Act 1994.

*News update below supplied to HRAS International by Maritime New Zealand.

New Zealand Government and industry commit to funding seafarer welfare

In what may be a world-first, the New Zealand Government and maritime operators whose ships operate in and around New Zealand have committed to funding seafarer welfare services through maritime levies. 

This year, the Government completed a review of maritime levies. One of the recommendations was to use maritime levies to fund seafarer welfare services. This followed legislation change in 2021, which made such use of levies possible. The recommendation was supported by much of the industry and approved by the Government to take effect from 1 July 2024. 

This is an important change confirming reliable, ongoing funding using maritime levies paid by the industry instead of seafarer welfare services having to solely rely on charitable sources for their funding. New Zealand’s maritime authority, Maritime NZ, will administer a system that will allocate available funding through grants to providers of seafarer welfare services following a thorough application and assessment process.

Seafarer welfare services should be available to the crew of all ships covered by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) across the ports of New Zealand, in a way that is appropriate to both their needs and the port they are visiting. 

The funding will be used to provide services that help meet what is required under the MLC. This falls into the broad categories of: communication services (Wi-Fi and telecommunications), information services, ship visits, shopping (for those crew not able to leave ship), money exchange, access and transport to welfare centres, transport services to and from town, and support for mental and physical health, wellbeing and advocacy services. 

Historically, seafarer welfare services in New Zealand have been provided almost exclusively by faith-based organisations, funded by charity. Since 1964 those organisations coordinated their work through the Seafarer Welfare Board (SWB). Government agencies have had a range of advisory roles with the SWB and helped it connect to the Government of the day but were not funders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic affected both the type of services that could be provided to seafarers, and sources of charitable funding. As a result, Crown funding has been provided to the SWB since 2020. In 2021 a centralised government funding arrangement was put in place for the SWB to provide specified services under a contract with Maritime NZ. These measures were intended as a stop-gap during the pandemic response and will be replaced by the new funding system.

Additionally, in September 2023, Maritime NZ began establishing a New Zealand Seafarer Welfare Council. The Council is intended to be a collaborative body looking at seafarer welfare services as they are now and how they can be in the future across all of New Zealand. It will focus on strategy and policy and will look at how New Zealand represents itself on the international stage in relation to the welfare of seafarers (wider than the MLC). The terms of reference and membership have been developed in collaboration with an Advisory Group made up of representatives from across the sector. The Council membership is seeking equal participation from government, industry, unions, and service providers. It is aiming to have its inaugural meeting in July this year.

Human Rights at Sea 2020 Report and Lobbying

Led by HRAS Founder David Hammond supporting the previous Seafarer Welfare Board and the Rev. John McLister, researched and drafted by Daniel Shepherd, the detail of the public report which challenged the previous lack of legislative support and state engagement with the necessary requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 by the previous New Zealand Government, is available to review HERE.



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Sources: Content supplied by Maritime New Zealand.

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