Shipping agents, seafarer welfare providers, unions, industry and government have met for the first time to discuss the welfare and wellbeing of seafarers at a forum organised by the Australian Seafarers' Welfare Council (ASWC).
Australian Maritime Safety Authority Ship Safety General Manager Allan Schwartz said shipping agents can play a pivotal role in the welfare of seafarers.
"Seafarer welfare is a shared responsibility and the shipping industry depends on seafarers to crew the world's commercial fleets," Mr Schwartz said.
"About 60 people attended the meeting in Sydney on Tuesday 8 March, which is indicative of the important role of shipping agents in their contribution and commitment to seafarer welfare."
Mr Schwartz said there was a demonstrated need for ongoing dialogue and communication between shipping agents, welfare providers around Australia, unions, ship operators and AMSA.
"The meeting reinforced the need for the ASWC to take a national approach to seafarer's welfare."
"There are opportunities for everyone involved in the maritime industry to make a positive difference to the lives of seafarers, who spend months away from their families in a sometimes challenging and often lonely work environment."
Representatives from seafarer welfare providers, ship operators, the International Transport Workers' Federation, Rio Tinto, Shipping Australia Limited and AMSA addressed the group.
The Maritime Labour Convention, which came into effect last year, and AMSA's role was discussed, along with the opportunities that exist for shipping agents, ship owners and operators, unions and welfare providers to work together to contribute to positive outcomes.
The forum noted that in 2013, there were about 920,000 seafarer visits to Australian ports.
To truly reflect the international aspect of seafarer welfare, the Australian Seafarers' Welfare Council became a member of the International Seafarers' Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN) last month.
ISWAN works toward the implementation of the MLC, with companies, unions, governments, welfare organisations and ports for the benefit of seafarers around the world.
Membership will provide Australia access to a network of 42 organisations and individuals involved in the global welfare of seafarers.
"This shared knowledge and experience will be invaluable to further develop seafarers' welfare in Australia," Mr Schwartz said.
The new ASWC website was launched this week at https://www.amsa.gov.au/seafarers_welfare/index.asp