SEAFARERS TO HAVE MORE SUPPORT, COUNSELLING AND INTERNET ACCESS

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The Seafarers Welfare Board has been providing counselling, access to books, the internet and toll calls to seafarers for years and a charity providing support services to visiting seafarers will be able to increase resources following a funding boost from the government, says an article published in RNZ.

•Law Change

Running off charity donations a law change will see part of the Maritime Levy go towards the board which operates in 11 ports around the country.

•Transport Minister’s voice for crew members

Transport Minister Michael Wood said some crew members had been at sea for 18 months with little to no contact with their families, so onshore support was vital.
“The board ensured Wi-Fi units were made available for ships calling at New Zealand ports, this gives seafarers the chance to connect with their families after months at sea and board staff communicating with them provides an avenue to raise concerns and complaints.”

•Board chair’s Note

Board chair Lance Lukin said the change meant they could spend less time fundraising and more time looking after those that work at sea.
“We have been working towards this for some time, the government stepping in and meeting its obligation under the maritime Labour Convention is a fantastic announcement.”
“Crew that haven’t been paid in nine months, haven’t had access to fresh food or basic items like toothpaste are the situations the board is facing.”

•Existence of Humanity

They’ve been doing contactless shopping for those who cannot disembark and giving away basic items so their basic human rights are met.
“There was a ship recently where the crew hadn’t touched land in 15 months and they were at their absolute wit’s end and about to abandon ship.”
“We were able to work with the union and Maritime New Zealand to change some of the crew over so they could go home, but yeah some were struggling massively with their mental health,” Lukin said.

•Advocatory concerns

The biggest part of the job is being their advocates and listening and acting on their concerns he said.
The Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill will be passed before mid-year allowing part of the levy to go to the support services, in the interim the government has provided funding through the Essential Transport Connectivity Scheme.
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Source : RNZ