(updated 20 01 17)
AIMPE was instrumental in the enactment of the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act in 1992 which came into force on 1st July 1993. Together with the ACTU and the Seamens Union, AIMPE lobbied for 7 years for the old Seamens Compensation Act 1911 to be repealed.
AIMPE subsequently lobbied for the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993. The Seacare Authority has oversight of both the Seafarers Rehabiitation and Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993. Together the two Acts are known as the Seacare scheme.
Seacare was the first jurisdiction in Australia where both OHS and Compensation were adminstered by the one body.
Seacare requires employers to maintain insurance coverage for all their seafaring employees on their vessels. The duty of care responsibilities of seafarers and their employers are codified in the OHS(MI). The Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act is modelled on the other Federal Government compensation legislation the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.
What to do if you are injured
Injuries are a fact of life - and more so at sea than in most other industries.
The first thing that you must do if you are injured is to report the injury [if you are conscious and able to make a report] as soon as possible.
Next is to get treatment on board if that is available.
Then you need to fill in a Seacare claim form as soon as possible.
Here is a PDF version:
SEA01.1_01244_May12_v26.pdf (182.02 KB)
Here is a link to download the form:
Even if it is a relatively minor injury you should report the injury and fill in a form as soon as possible.
"If it is not written down then it did not happen."
For a severe injury you may need to leave the ship to seek medical treatment.
But you should not sign off as though you are going on leave.
Engineers have a tendency to "soldier on". To stay on board, to pretend there is no pain or to hope the injury will mend itself.
The AIMPE delegate and the Chief Engineer should both take responsibility to make it clear that an injured person is not doing anyone a favour by "soldiering on".
Seacare Health and Safety Reps handbook
AIMPE members employed on vessels covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 are able exercise the provisions of OHS(MI) including the right for designated work groups to have health and safety representative.
For guidance see the Seacare HSR handbook:
Seacare_HSR_Handbook_A5_Sep2008.pdf (513.13 KB)
or the more recent pocket guide:
HSR_pocket_guide.PDF (1.50 MB)
AIMPE OPPOSES SEACARE BILL
(Posted 23 11 16)
The Seacare system will shrink dramatically if the legislation presented to the House of Representative in October is approved by Federal Parliament. Possibly one third of the seafarers currently covered by the Seacare scheme may no longer be covered by the Seacare scheme and may instead fall under various State and Territory compensation and OHS laws.
All seafarers on floating production facilities including FSOs and FPSOs will be excluded from coverage under the Seacare system.
In addition vessels operating in “designated waters” will fall outside the Seacare system and seafarers on such ships will only be covered if the operators of the vessels decide to opt-in to the Seacare system. This provision will impact on seafarers working on ships engaged in intra-state trade e.g. the Queensland bauxite trade. It will also leave seafarers who work in the Offshore Oil and Gas sector in a similar position if the vessel that they are working on is in designated waters.
AIMPE will make submissions opposing the passage of the Seafarers and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 and urging the reconsideration of this Bill.
Mr Angus Taylor, Member for Hume and Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation presented the Bills to the House of Representatives (the responsible Minister is Senator Michaelia Cash, Minster for Employment). In his Second Reading speech Assistant Minister Hume said:
There is clearly a need to modernise the scheme's work health and safety arrangements to ensure that seafarers are adequately protected and to update its workers' compensation arrangements to restore the historic link with the Comcare scheme.
The changing profile of the maritime industry over the last 20 years has also made it more difficult for both maritime industry employers and employees to work out if they fall within the scheme's coverage.
A Federal Court decision in 2014 significantly expanded the coverage of the Seacare scheme casting further doubt on the scheme's coverage.
Finally, the governance of the Seacare scheme is overly complex for its small size, and its regulatory bodies are not adequately funded to perform their functions.
Far from protecting seafarers current rights, the proposed legislation will toss many seafarers out of the Seacare scheme and back to one of the State schemes – at least as long as the vessel that they are working on is in “designated waters”. If the vessel ceases working in “designated waters” then the seafarers may revert back to Seacare coverage.
The Assistant Minister states that it is more difficult to work out the scheme coverage – so the Bill proposes to carve out all areas that have been seen as problems. That is all of the areas where employers would prefer not to be under Seacare but would rather be under State or Territory laws.
In 2014 the Federal Court decision in Samson v Aucote decided that the coverage of the Seacare legislation was much wider than many people had previously treated it. However the particular vessel at the centre of the case was one which the Seacare Authority regarded as within the scheme – it was listed in the Seacare Authority annual report.
As to the concern that the scheme is overly complex and the regulatory bodies are underfunded well the Seacare Authority is administered by the Department of Employment at a relatively modest cost and AMSA carries out the Inspectorate functions – which it will continue to do under the proposed changes!
The introduction of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) National Law 2012 was intended to be a major step towards a single national maritime industry in Australia. The first objective of that law stated that it was:
“(a) to form a part of a cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory that provides a single national framework for ensuring the safe operation, design, construction and equipping of domestic commercial vessels”
Now the Federal Government wants to dismember the existing national scheme for Australian seafarers’ workers compensation, rehabilitation and occupational health and safety rights and entitlements.
AIMPE has made many submissions over recent years to the effect that the Seacare scheme coverage should be amended to ensure that all the grey areas are resolved by making it clear that they are covered by the Seacare scheme.
This was the key part of the AIMPE submission to the 2012-13 Review of Seacare:
AIMPE submits that the coverage of the Seacare scheme should be clarified to ensure that all seafarers working in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone are covered by both the Seafarers Act and the OHS(MI) Act.
This should not be done by reliance solely on provisions of the Navigation Act 1912 nor should it be done by reliance solely on provisions of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) Act. Neither of these new Acts have comprehensive coverage provisions.
The Seacare scheme is a sectoral scheme intended principally for the protection and benefit of seafarers working in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. One method of defining the boundaries of the scheme, or the scope of coverage of the scheme, would be to identify and define the seafarers covered by the scheme. This should be clear in each of the Acts and consistent between the two Acts.
The term “seafarers” should be defined as all persons working on commercial vessels within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone. This should include all persons working on Australian registered vessels and all persons working on foreign flag vessels operating in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone.
AIMPE wants the Seacare scheme to be expanded and not to be shrunk as this current Bill would do.
The proposed legislation excludes various types of vessels from coverage. Importantly one group of vessels excluded are offshore floating storage or production units. Exclusion of FSOs and FPSOs is not agreed by AIMPE. This would exclude the following vessels:
- Dampier Spirit
- Montara Venture
- Ngujima Yin
- Ningaloo Vision
There has been argument about the inclusion of some of the above vessels in the Seacare scheme however they are all identified in the Seacare Annual Report 2015-16 at Appendix 3 although some have gained exemptions under s20A of the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. Several of these vessels are covered by current Enterprise Agreements which specify that the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act will apply to seafarers on board. One effect of the proposed legislation would be to deny the employees covered by the Enterprise Agreements their current entitlements.
The Bill also proposes that the definition of offshore industry mobile unit includes an offshore industry living quarters barge. Such a definition may stretch to include a cruise ship or accommodation vessel which is being deployed for offshore purposes. These vessels would be excluded from the Seacare scheme. The Costa Concordia is just one recent and tragic reminder of the risks involved with the operation of such vessels. Full maritime regulations and controls should continue to apply to such vessels.
The proposed legislation also intends that vessels operating in “designated waters” of a particular State or Territory would not be covered. AIMPE is concerned that several trading ships which have been covered by the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act would also have the current coverage arrangement disturbed including:
- Accolade II
- RTM Piiramu
- RTM Twarra
- RTM Wakmatha
- RTM Weipa
AIMPE notes that these 5 vessels are all identified in the Seacare Annual Report and have all been routinely and regularly covered by the Seacare legislation. AIMPE would be most concerned if seafarers employed on these vessels were to have their long-standing entitlements denied. The operators/employers would presumably have to go through the opt-in process in order that status quo be maintained.
Furthermore the concept of “designated waters” could be exploited by some vessel operators to argue that certain offshore oil and gas vessels are not covered under the new definitions. Currently the largest single group of vessels under the Seacare scheme is categorised as Offshore vessels. AIMPE is opposed to this change because it could see those personnel on Offshore vessels who currently are within the Seacare scheme falling out of the coverage of the legislation if this amendment goes through. This would not be a ‘steady state’ coverage model but a radical reduction in scope of coverage. Again it may be countered that this could be dealt with by the opt-in mechanism however this is an unsatisfactory outcome and one which will generate confusion and uncertainty in the sector.
There is a three year maximum time frame on the length of an opt-in declaration application. Why? If an owner or operator would prefer a 10 year declaration why should that not be permitted? See proposed s25E(4).
The proposed s25M provides for exemption of employment of some or all employees. Why?
The maritime industry is a dangerous industry and has been recognised as such for many years. However the Australian maritime industry is relatively small in terms of the number of employees covered under the Seacare scheme. It is certainly far smaller than the pool of workers covered by the Comcare scheme. Without clear and separate reporting there is a risk that the maritime industry issues will be masked and as a consequence may be ignored.
AIMPE is of the view that the proposed Bill should be amended to require the retention of separate Annual Reporting of the maritime industry compensation, rehabilitation and OHS statistics no less comprehensive than the reporting under the existing Seacare legislation.
For 23 years the Seacare scheme has enjoyed oversight by a tripartite group called the Seacare Authority with employer and employee representatives as well as the relevant Government representatives and an Independent Chairperson. Only the Chair of the Authority received any remuneration. The Bill proposes to abolish the Authority. In its place the chairperson of the SRCC “may constitute a committee”. This ‘Seacare Advisory Group’ is not mandatory. The composition is not required to demonstrate an equal balance between employer and employee representatives just a minimum of one employer and one employee representative.
The Seacare Advisory Group should be a mandatory requirement and the employer and employee representation should be equivalent. The group should include 3 employer and 3 employee representatives.
The current Seafarers legislation provides for occupational diseases to be declared. Various diseases have been declared including asbestos related diseases. Clarification will also be sought that none of the diseases on the original list will be removed.
The proposed 2016 Bill to amend the Seacare legislation can be accessed here:
And here is the speech made on the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Representatives:
Possible changes to Seacare
(updated 05 09 16)
The Seacare Scheme was subject to legislative amendment by the Abbott Government in 2015. With support from various cross-bench Senators the amendment was not pursued.
AIMPE made a submission about this Amendment Bill, you can read it here:
However it now appears that a version of the 2015 Bill will be presented to the new 45th Parliament in late 2016. The Department of Employment has advised AIMPE and the other 'industry stakeholders' that:
It is proposed the revised and reduced reform package will clarify the coverage of the scheme, modernise the scheme’s work health and safety arrangements, make necessary and overdue updates to the Seafarers Act, improve governance arrangements and introduce a cost recovery mechanism.
The advice from the Department included a table of changes which can be read here: Amendments_arising_from_the_2012-13_Review_29_08_16.pdf (198.72 KB)
As at date of posting, the latest version of the draft legislation is not yet available.
Other useful information
Noise on Ships
The IMO Code on Noise Level on Board Ships of Novermber 2012 applies to new ships above 1600 GT.
A copy can be found here IMO__Code_on_Noise_Level_on_Board_Ships_30_Nov_2012___MSC.33791.pdf (1.17 MB)
The Seacare web site is a valuable source of information for health & safety matters, access it here
Seacare is the policy maker for maritime OH&S, AMSA is the Inspectorate.
The AMSA OHS page is here
The United Kingdom's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has produced a Code of Safe Practice for Seafarers - it does not legally apply in Australia but is a useful document:
Code_of_Safe_Working_Practices_for_Merchant_Seafarers_for_gov_uk.pdf (3.31 MB Fri Jan 20 13:26:17 2017)
Welcome to the Workers Health Centre, here