US-based Human Rights Charity has published a report on what it says is a precarious condition of welfare support for seafarers visiting New Zealand.
Report titled: “New Zealand: Poor Funding for Seafarers’ Welfare Services and Poor MLC Compliance“Assigned by Ps. John McLister from Lyttelton Parish (Mission to Seafarers New Zealand). It was said that the long-term maintenance of seafarers’ centers remained under constant threat due to the lack of support from the Government and the local maritime industry.
The report, commissioned pro bono in October 2019, has involved an independent review of the disclosed documentation which raises concerns about the ongoing port chaplain, legal opinion, the response of the Government and the New Zealand Seafarers Welfare Agency (SWB) seeking to secure sustainable resources. Its findings and recommendations must be considered, not only in New Zealand, but around the world for the newly emerging Seafarers’ Committee and Welfare Port, Human Rights at Sea said.
“Until now, it has been an uncompromising charity from local residents and parishioners in terms of funding and volunteering in the affected port communities that have been, and continue to be, the backbone of providing assistance for visiting seafarers.” However, such local charity is not a sustainable choice, especially when looking at the welfare provisions of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006) signed by the Government of New Zealand, has been ratified, and entered into force on March 9, 2016.
The report alleges that, at the time of writing, the New Zealand Government seems to have failed to support the Maritime Labor Convention, its purpose and reasonable and necessary welfare provisions for seafarers. Furthermore, the Government does not appear to be involved with the International Labor Organization in accordance with the State’s reporting requirements.
The report cites as an example, the cost of running a New Zealand Seafarers Welfare Facility: “In 2017, the cost of a New Zealand seafarers welfare welfare fund was more than $ 700,000 to finance a New Zealand welfare center based on the coast. Apart from a small $ 5,000 grant from Maritime New Zealand, two $ 5,000 grants from the port authority, and one $ 5,000 grant from the Christchurch Board, funding of coastal-based welfare facilities is mainly borne by seafarers’ welfare charities.
“The New Zealand Government, shipping companies, most port authorities and entities that have little or no ports contribute financially to the treatment of seafarers who visit New Zealand ports. The costs of running welfare centers would be far higher if it were not for relying on volunteer staff for staff seafarers’ centers. It is estimated that in 2017, using an independent volunteer sector rate of $ 23.00 per hour, volunteers contribute $ 600,000 to manage New Zealand’s coast-based welfare centers. “
Human Rights at Sea recommends:
1. That the New Zealand Government immediately reviews funding mechanisms, or their absence, for seafaring-based seafaring welfare facilities and services under the MLC in all countries;
2. That the New Zealand Government drafted and proposed amendments relevant to national legislation to support seafarers’ welfare services, for example in the Maritime Transport Act 1994 to enact Regulation 4.4 of the MLC;
3. That the New Zealand Government is introducing an updated mandatory port levy system in line with that recommended by the ICC ITF, and other maritime welfare organizations, which specifically focus on providing sustainable seafarers’ welfare services;
4. As an alternative, it is recommended that the Government of New Zealand fence and allocate a portion of the existing Maritime Retribution to ensure future funding and protection of seafarers’ welfare facilities and services;
5. That the SWB submits an official complaint to the ILO for non-compliance with the Convention’s obligations if the New Zealand Government fails to act further.
McLister said: “We are three weeks in captivity, and while the Government is rightly focused on COVID-19 concerns, more than any time in our history we depend on our maritime trade. This has not stopped, but seafarers’ rights have been severely restricted under the current crisis. The best way we can respect the important work that seafarers do is to make sure when the crisis subsides, to have appropriate facilities for them.
“This report from Human Rights at Sea independently supports our concerns and articulates them for everyone to understand.”
Human Rights at Sea have contacted the Government of New Zealand for comment.