Page last updated: 16 July 2020
Earlier this month an extensive outbreak of COVID-19 in the Australian state of Victoria has caused the authorities to impose a wide range of restrictions. An outbreak is also now (as of 16 July 2020) underway in Sydney.
Travel plans of commercial mariners planning to arrive by air or by sea may be affected. Non-Australia residents who are maritime-industry participants may also want to take note of the following non-exhaustive list of restrictions:
- the city of Melbourne (and part of the state outside the city) is in extreme lock down until 11:59pm on Wednesday 19 August 2020. Persons are not allowed out of their residences except for certain essential reasons.
- roadblocks have been set up around the city
- international flights, which includes transit flights, have been re-directed away from Melbourne and this will last at least until August 8 2020.
- In theory, the border of Victoria is open and people can cross from elsewhere into Victoria and, again in theory, there are no Victorian restrictions on leaving the State
- international flights, including transit flights, are not calling in Melbourne
- other Australian States / Territories have imposed restrictions on travel from Victoria
- the Australian Capital Territory requires people travelling from Victoria to quarantine for 14 days
- New South Wales has imposed restrictions although there is an exemption for critical freight-related workers
- the Northern Territory requires anyone arriving in the Territory from Victoria or Sydney to go into a 14-day quarantine
- Queensland forbids anyone who has been in a COVID-19 hotspot, which includes the whole of Victoria and parts of Sydney, from entering
- South Australia forbids Victorians (except for Essential Travellers) from entering the State. There are some restrictions on NSW and ACT travellers too
- Tasmania has closed its borders to nearly everyone bar essential workers and some other categories of people
- Western Australia has a hard border that is closed to nearly everyone bar essential workers and some other categories of people
- Perth - a cap of 525 international arrivals per week applies
- Brisbane - an overall cap of 500 international arrivals per week arrives
- Sydney - a cap of 450 international arrivals per day will continue with a view to further reductions
- Maritime Safety Queensland has imposed vessel reporting protocols on ships arriving in Queensland after calling in Victoria
The situation is extremely fluid. Jurisdictions all over Australia have been updating their public health directives. Shipping Australia is working to update these pages. However, the most up-to-date information (as of 16 July 2020) is coloured in red text.
The general rule (but with some exemptions) is that everyone who arrives into Australia will be sent into a forced 14-day quarantine at a government-specified location. This is typically a hotel that is under lock-down. Most people subjected to a forced quarantine are not allowed to leave the place of quarantine.
However, the Australian Border Force has issued this exemption for maritime crew. In summary the exemption allows:
- maritime crew to arrive and depart Australia by sea or air
- maritime crew are not subject to a forced quarantine; but,
- they will have to self-isolate in a hotel or aboard their ship while they are in Australia
What's the difference between a forced 14-day mandatory quarantine and a seafarer's 14-day self isolation?
- A person sent to mandatory quarantine has no choice in the matter, is subject to very tight control and the person does not have freedom of movement
- A person in mandatory quarantine is basically sent to a hotel room and is not allowed to leave that room, except for medical emergencies, until 14-days have passed
- A seafarer under a 14-day self-isolation has more freedom of movement and has some options to leave the place of accommodation
- he or she can leave self-isolation for the purpose of going to a ship to join it and to finish 14-days of self-isolation onboard; or
- he or she can leave the place of self-isolation for the purposes of going directly to an airport and leaving Australia
- seafarers are also allowed to go directly from an airport to a ship for the purposes of joining a vessel and then departing Australia without going into quarantine or self-isolation
This information about maritime crew changes DOES NOT apply to cruise ship crew as foreign-flagged cruise ships are banned from entering Australia.
An unsuccessful attempt to create a consistent uniform set of national rules
On 09 April, the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet had agreed that the Australian Government and all States and Territories will implement a consistent and immediate exemption for non-cruise maritime crew to provide for the transiting to and from their places of work, within and across jurisdictions with agreed documentation.
Details of what was agreed by National Cabinet are available here.
The National Cabinet is the meeting of the Prime Minister and all the Premiers / Chief Ministers from all the Australian States and Territories.
Unfortunately, after having agreed in the National Cabinet to adopt a uniform set of rules, the States and Territories did not in fact immediately implement the uniform rules. The States / Territories took a matter of weeks to align their jurisdictions to the national rules and, in some cases at least, still have not done so by 23 June.
Interaction of the national rules with State and Territory Rules
Although the Commonwealth (i.e. the Federal Government of Australia) allows crew changes in its national rules, those rules are subject to the rules of the States and Territories.
So although the Commonwealth broadly allows crew changes without requiring that seafarers go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine, there are requirements on seafarers to undergo a 14-day quarantine in some circumstances. Western Australia, for example, imposes such a rule.
Any seafarer who flies directly to Western Australia hoping to join a ship may be disappointed to find that he or she is sent into quarantine despite what is written in the Federal rules.
Jurisdictions that have published broad approvals for seafarer changeovers with minimal restrictions
- As of 23 June 2020 the following Australian jurisdictions have broadly enabled seafarer changeovers: the Commonwealth, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
- Queensland: has published a series of rules in a "Code of Conduct" detailing under what conditions seafarers can move around the State. See our Queensland pages for further information.
Jurisdictions that have published broad approvals for seafarer changeovers but with significant restrictions
- Western Australia: requires seafarers crossing its borders by sea or air to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in nearly all circumstances.
- Victoria: seafarers must be joining a ship which has an overseas port as its next port of call. If the ship will call elsewhere in Australia then the seafarer must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Jurisdictions that have not published broad approvals for seafarer changeovers
- New South Wales: has not, as of 23 June 2020, published any broad rules, directions or protocols allowing seafarers to transit their territories. The lack of transit rules for seafarers in New South Wales presents a particular problem as many international flights arrive/depart in Sydney (which is in New South Wales) and the State has a 14-day mandatory quarantine for new arrivals.
- So, even if a seafarer is due to change ship in, say, Darwin in the Northern Territory, he or she may arrive in Sydney first and will likely have to undergo a 14-day quarantine before flying to Darwin.
Shipping Australia has published a lot of detailed summaries and has collated email addresses, forms, contact points and other such material in our COVID-19 information pages. We break down that information into international policies, then Federal policies and also by State and Territory policies.
We cannot emphasise the following point enough: it is useless to only read the Federal rules without reading the relevant set of State / Territory rules too. Likewise, readers are strongly encouraged to read the Federal rules in addition to whatever State or Territory rules they are interested in. Don't read one or the other. Read both.