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New Zealand sets 'international precedent' on maritime levies legislation to support seafarer welfare centres

30 July 2021

New Zealand's government has updated legislation to allow maritime levies on vessels visiting its ports to help fund seafarer welfare services.

The historic move to improve welfare support in ports reflects lobbying undertaken by the Seafarers Welfare Board for New Zealand (NZ SWB), which coordinates the work of maritime charities in the country, including The Mission to Seafarers, Stella Maris, and Sailors' Society (New Zealand).

Announcing the change, New Zealand's Minister of Transport Michael Wood tweeted: 'the government will provide secure, stable funding for the critical work of our Seafarer Welfare Centres. Visiting seafarers regularly tell me that our SWCs provide amazing support, and this will make it sustainable.'

'The changes to the Maritime Transport Act 1994 were made to allow a portion of the Maritime Safety Levy, also known elsewhere as 'Light Dues', to be used to support seafarers' welfare,' explained Mission to Seafarers' regional director and Wellington port chaplain The Reverend Lance Lukin.

'We will be about two thirds of the way towards ideal funding for our long-term plans with this new funding. Given that we started at the beginning of August 2020 from near enough to zero, the funding is very welcome and being well used,' he added.

The New Zealand legislation was also welcomed by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) as setting a 'positive international precedent'.

Deputy chief executive at the MNWB Sharon Coveney said 'The MNWB encourages the use of the levy system of funding in UK ports following the highly successful examples set in the ports of Humber, Tyne, Tees and Liverpool.

Ms Coveney said seafarers' and fishers' welfare was also boosted in May 2021 when the Maritime & Coastguard Agency recognised the MNWB as the UK's National Seafarers' Welfare Board following the signing of a formal agreement. That Memorandum of Understanding sets out ways both will work together to coordinate their approach to the provision and improvement of welfare for seafarers and fishers in the UK.

'The MNWB applaud the excellent work undertaken by the NZ SWB which has set a positive international precedent we hope will be replicated not only in the UK, but also by member states around the world.'