Several key decisions were announced yesterday (Sunday 15 March). Decisions were announced in respect of international air passengers (including relief crews flying in for a crew-change), ships’ crews arriving in Australia by sea, and a ban on cruise ships berthing in Australia. Details follow below.
Meanwhile, readers should note that the situation is evolving quickly and further updates are expected. Shipping Australia understands that further official maritime guidance is due to be published.
Commercial vessels and the 14-day rule
According to the Australian Border Force in a verbal teleconference held late on Sunday night, the national standard is that all commercial cargo ships arriving from anywhere in the world can berth upon arrival in Australia.
What’s new is that, regardless of where in the world that the ship has sailed from, all crew must stay on board while the ship is berthed in Australia until 14 days has passed since their last port call.
However, there is an exemption allowing crew to disembark within that 14-day period to carry out essential functions but the crew must wear personal protective equipment.
THERE IS NO OFFICIAL NATIONAL INSTRUCTION TO CREATE AN AUSTRALIA-WIDE BLANKET BAN ON SHIPS ENTERING AUSTRALIA FOR 14-DAYS AFTER LEAVING ANOTHER COUNTRY OVERSEAS.
It is understood that further official guidance will be issued in due course.
Port reactions to the 14-day rule
Meanwhile, port authorities in Queensland and New South Wales continue to apply a more restrictive policy preventing the entry of ships into port until 14 days have elapsed since their departure from China, Iran, South Korea or Italy.
The good news is that both Maritime Safety Queensland and the Port Authority of NSW have today confirmed that their restrictions on ships from entering ports in Queensland and NSW until 14 days have passed will only apply to ships that had their last port of call in China, Iran, South Korea or Italy.
Unfortunately, we also understand Port Hedland Port Authority today refused berthing permission to a ship as 14-days had not elapsed since leaving its last overseas port. There is some confusion in the industry and it is possible other seaports in Australia may misinterpret the new instructions from the Australian Border Force.
Crew changes in Australia and the 14-day rule
Crew flying into Australia from anywhere in the world to join a ship here must isolate themselves for 14-days. However, the Australian Border force is working to set up enhanced health-screening measures that would allow crew flying into Australia to join the ship and THEN self-isolate.
Shipping Australia alerted the Australian Border Force that there could be a potential accumulation of vessels around the Australian coast because of the 14-day isolation rule applying to crew. Urgent action on this point has been requested.
Cruise industry update
As of the end of last week, many cruise operators voluntary suspended operations. Most ships will terminate their voyages with one or two ships continuing to Europe. Cruise ship passengers have been briefed on Australia’s self-isolation measures.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, announced a ban on cruise ships arriving at Australian ports for 30 days after leaving a foreign port. The Prime Minister today released a statement that the above measures have been endorsed by the National Cabinet.
Updates from Shipping Australia
Shipping Australia will update the industry as the situation develops in Australia.