An outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney has caused the local authorities to lock-down parts of the city. The situation is extremely fluid and restrictions are being introduced / amended / rescinded as the situation develops. There have also been outbreaks elsewhere around Australia.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Australia, there are hard borders between the State of New South Wales (the state in which Sydney is located) and the other States and Territories. Even residents of those other States and Territories are finding it very difficult to cross the border.
Meanwhile, the city of Brisbane in Queensland has recently had a three day lockdown.
Seafarers and crew change managers booking flights to Australia may wish to carefully consider their travel plans at the time of booking. Air travel to Australia remains difficult. Australia has limits on the numbers of people - even including citizens - it will allow into the country each week. This quota has recently been slashed in half. The situation is extremely fluid and the rules can change at any time. For instance, between 19 December 2020 and 22 December 2020, Queensland changed its border rules three times. There have been instances were plane-loads of passengers have taken off, only for the rules to change mid-flight and then they were forced into quarantine (or sent home) upon arrival at their destination.
Despite everything, Queensland remains the easiest jurisdiction to carry out crew changes.
About this page:
- Detailed policies and rules by jurisdiction
- Australia Crew Change Summary
- Aviation rules: caps on passenger numbers and domestic passenger protocols
- Health-related directives by State & Territory and general health-rules
Shipping Australia is working to revise and produce a comprehensive update. However, in the interim, please contact Shipping Australia directly for further details.
Phone: +61 2 9167 5838
Australia Crew Change Summary
Undertaking crew changes in Australia is challenging but it can be done if very carefully planned, timed and coordinated. Ensure adequate time is allowed, noting there is a limited number of flights to most Australian major cities both from outside Australia and from within Australia. Queensland is the jurisdiction in which it is easiest to carry out a crew change.
Non-Australian citizens and non-Australian residents are not permitted to enter Australia, via aircraft or sea vessel, unless an exemption applies. Commercial maritime crew do have an exemption an may enter and depart Australia with an appropriate entry visa and a Maritime Crew Visa. Maritime crew are not subject to the otherwise mandatory 14-day Federal quarantine, however, they will be required to comply with self-isolation requirements. Maritime crew will in most States & Territories be subject to additional controls and this can include a compulsory local quarantine.
Federal visa issues
Crew change co-ordinators (ship agents typically but this could be other parties who arrange crew changes) will need to ensure that seafarers have a valid Maritime Crew Visa AND some other kind of visa that allows entry into Australia by air (the Maritime Crew Visa does not allow entry into Australia by air). There are two types of tourist visa and one type of transit visa that can be used. The following two documents will be of use: "Visitor and Transit visa applications for Maritime Crew Visa Holders" and "Maritime Crew Changes - FAQs".
Further Federal information
The Australian Federal Government has published extensive guidance in the form of numerous COVID-19 factsheets:
The fact sheet "COVID-19 Information for the marine industry" has official contact numbers for further advice and after hours enquires.
REMEMBER: even though the Federal rules may allow crew changes, the relevant State and Territory rules ALSO apply at the same time. So, for instance, even though the Federal rules allow crew changes without quarantine any seafarer travelling into Western Australia will nonetheless have to do a 14-day quarantine. Also remember that each port may ALSO have its own rules too.
27 Nov 20: this State is the most feasible jurisdiction in Australia for carrying out crew changes. Visit our Queensland pages for further details.
27 Nov 20: Crew changes are extremely difficult but are possible. There are currently no general international commercial flights into Melbourne. However, we understand that chartered flights can fly into Melbourne. International arrivals will resume in early December. Meanwhile, ship-to-ship transfer has also occurred but this is very rare.
New South Wales
22 December 2020: an outbreak of COVID-19 in the north-eastern parts of Sydney has caused the local authorities to lock-down parts of the city. The situation is extremely fluid and the Premier of New South Wales has indicated that further restrictions may be introduced within a few days. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Australia, other authorities have created hard borders between the State of New South Wales (the state in which Sydney is located) and the other States and Territories. Seafarers and crew change managers booking flights to Australia may wish to carefully consider their travel plans. Prior to the current outbreak, Sydney and New South Wales already presented a high risk of failure in crew changes. In the current outbreak, that risk may now be even higher. In theory, a crew change can be done after the on-signing crew undertake a 14-day hotel quarantine. Off-signing crew can go straight to the airport and depart. However, crew changes in NSW are reported to be extremely difficult, time-consuming and frustrating. System is chaotic, bureaucratic and officials can be unhelpful. Crew change is possible but there is a high chance of failure.
27 Nov 20: the ability to crew change is very limited because of a general lack of flight-availability. However, crew changes have happened in South Australia. In November 2020 there was an outbreak of COVID-19 and the situation is currently very fluid as at the time of writing.
27 Nov 20: technically possible, although it is extraordinarily difficult in practice anywhere other than Perth.
Transiting through Australia
Passengers transiting Australia are automatically exempt from Australian travel restrictions if they in in Australia for less than 72 hours before leaving on a connecting flight. There are visa issues. Some nationals can transit Australia without a visa. Other nationals will need a transit visa. Maritime Crew Visa (subclass 988) holders can use a transit visa to enter Australia by air to join cargo vessels. Readers are directed to this page to find out more.
AVIATION: rules and restrictions
Each of the main Australian airports has federally-imposed quotas on the numbers of people who are allowed to fly into Australia. This number changes frequently. Potential passengers can unexpectedly be told that they have lost their seat. For instance, see the 11 January 2021 news story "Returning Australians lose Qantas tickets after caps decrease".
Readers are advised to review the website of the main airports prior to booking flights:
Adelaide (South Australia)
Perth (Western Australia)
Sydney (New South Wales)
Readers may also find it useful to review the news pages of the trade website Australian Aviation.
*Note: Commercial mariners flying into Queensland specifically are not affected by passenger caps as the authorities have set up a separate system to manage seafarers; this does not apply in other jurisdictions
Negative COVID-test required before coming to Australia / masks must be worn
Returning Australians and other travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. Exemptions will only be applied in extenuating circumstances, such as seasonal workers where there is limited access to testing. Masks must be worn on flights and in airports.
COVID-Safe Domestic Flying—Domestic Passenger Journey Protocols
The Australian aviation industry has developed a Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol to provide clear and consistent guidance regarding risk-minimisation principles and processes in domestic airports and on aircraft for domestic passenger travel. Seafarers flying into Australia may need to take domestic flights to reach their ships.
Health directives by State & Territory in Legal English
Jurisdictions all over Australia have been updating their public health directives. Updates can be accessed directly at the list of authorities below.
General health rules in Plain English