Travel within Australia can be difficult and there are numerous examples of people being caught-out on the wrong side of a border after travel restrictions have been announced; they have been stuck for days, weeks and months. There have been instances were plane-loads of passengers have taken off, only for the rules to change mid-flight and the passengers were then forced into quarantine (or sent home) upon arrival at their destination.
The situation is extremely fluid and the rules can change at any time. For instance, between 19 December 2020 and 22 December 2020, Queensland changed its border rules three times.
Despite everything, Queensland remains the easiest jurisdiction to carry out crew changes in Australia.
The most comprehensive, easy-to-read, and up-to-date guide to border and travel restrictions across Australia is produced by "SBS", the state broadcaster. A link to this guide can be found at the foot of this webpage.
About this page:
- Australia Crew Change Summary
- Aviation rules: caps on passenger numbers and domestic passenger protocols
- Health-related directives by State & Territory and general health-rules
Please contact Shipping Australia directly for further details.
Phone: +61 2 9167 5838
Australia Crew Change Summary
Undertaking crew changes in Australia is challenging but it can be done if very carefully planned, timed and coordinated. Ensure adequate time is allowed, noting there is a limited number of flights to most Australian major cities both from outside Australia and from within Australia. Queensland is the jurisdiction in which it is easiest to carry out a crew change. In nearly all the other States and Territories, it appears that the local and international maritime companies have largely given up trying to carry out a crew change.
Commonwealth (known in other countries as "Federal Government")
Non-Australian citizens and non-Australian residents are not permitted to enter Australia, via aircraft or sea vessel, unless an exemption applies. Commercial maritime crew do have an exemption an may enter and depart Australia with an appropriate entry visa and a Maritime Crew Visa. Maritime crew are not subject to the otherwise mandatory 14-day Federal quarantine, however, they will be required to comply with self-isolation requirements. Maritime crew will in most States & Territories be subject to additional controls and this can include a compulsory local quarantine.
Commonwealth visa issues
Crew change co-ordinators (ship agents typically but this could be other parties who arrange crew changes) will need to ensure that seafarers have a valid Maritime Crew Visa AND some other kind of visa that allows entry into Australia by air (the Maritime Crew Visa does not allow entry into Australia by air). The Australian Border Force is the first port of call for all visa related information; the ABF also maintains a COVID-specific set of web-pages.
The Australian Commonwealth Government has published extensive guidance at its Department of Health:
- Coronavirus page
- Various resources
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for the marine industry *this is a particularly useful document.
NATION-STATE / TERRITORY INTERACTION: even though the Federal rules may allow crew changes, the relevant State and Territory rules ALSO apply at the same time. So, for instance, even though the Federal rules allow crew changes without quarantine any seafarer travelling into one of the States of Australia may also have to do a 14-day quarantine. Remember too that each port in Australia may ALSO have its own rules too.
This is the easiest jurisdiction within which to carry out a crew change. Control efforts to handle outbreaks have (so far) tended towards short, localised, lockdowns, of which there have been very few. The Queensland border can be closed at anytime.
- Restrictions in Queensland (Queensland Department of Health)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19)—information for the Queensland maritime industry
- Chief Health Officer public health directions
- Protocol for maritime crew members joining or signing off a vessel in Queensland
- Q&A on the Protocol
New South Wales
In theory, a crew change can be done after the on-signing crew undertake a 14-day hotel quarantine. Off-signing crew can go straight to the airport and depart. However, crew changes in NSW are reported to be extremely difficult, time-consuming and frustrating. System is chaotic and bureaucratic. Officials have been repeatedly reported by industry executives as being extremely unhelpful. There have been comparatively few examples of the NSW border being closed; the local authorities seem to have tried to keep the NSW border open.
It has been difficult to carry out a crew change. Control efforts to handle outbreaks have (so far) tended large-area lockdowns, state-wide lockdowns and lengthy (many months-long) lockdowns. The Victorian border can be closed at anytime.
- Victoria Department of Health and Human Services - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- V-DHHS Coronavirus restrictions
- Victoria Department of Transport - Coronavirus
Crew changes are possible but few international crew changes (if any) have taken place. Owing to its location, there appears to have been little demand for international crew changes in the State. There have been reported difficulties in getting crew changes underway for domestic maritime crew. The border can be closed at anytime and for lengthy periods. This has produced severe problems for domestic maritime crew.
- Rules and regulations
- Coronavirus Resources (miscellaneous)
- "Coming to Tasmania" * (an essential read for anyone planning an entry into Tasmania)
Crew changes are possible but few have taken place; there has been little demand for crew changes in the State. Control efforts to handle outbreaks have (so far) tended towards short, localised, lockdowns, of which there have been very few. The border can be closed at anytime.
Crew change is technically possible, although it is extraordinarily difficult in practice anywhere other than Perth. WA has a hard border which means the vast majority of people crossing the border have had to go into a 14-day lockdown although that has eased over time. WA has repeatedly demonstrated that it can and will harden its border. This can happen at any time.
Crew changes are possible but few have taken place; there appears to have been little demand for crew changes in the Territory. The border can be closed at anytime.
Transiting through Australia
Passengers transiting Australia are automatically exempt from Australian travel restrictions if they in in Australia for less than 72 hours before leaving on a connecting flight. There are visa issues. Some nationals can transit Australia without a visa. Other nationals will need a transit visa. Maritime Crew Visa (subclass 988) holders can use a transit visa to enter Australia by air to join cargo vessels. Readers are directed to this page to find out more.
AVIATION: rules and restrictions
Each of the main Australian airports has federally-imposed quotas on the numbers of people who are allowed to fly into Australia. This number changes frequently. Potential passengers can unexpectedly be told that they have lost their seat. For instance, see the 11 January 2021 news story "Returning Australians lose Qantas tickets after caps decrease".
Readers are advised to review the website of the main airports prior to booking flights:
Adelaide (South Australia)
Perth (Western Australia)
Sydney (New South Wales)
Readers may also find it useful to review the news pages of the trade website Australian Aviation.
*Note: Commercial mariners flying into Queensland specifically are not affected by passenger caps as the authorities have set up a separate system to manage seafarers; this does not apply in other jurisdictions
Negative COVID-test required before coming to Australia / masks must be worn
Returning Australians and other travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. Exemptions will only be applied in extenuating circumstances, such as seasonal workers where there is limited access to testing. Masks must be worn on flights and in airports.
COVID-Safe Domestic Flying—Domestic Passenger Journey Protocols
The Australian aviation industry has developed a Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol to provide clear and consistent guidance regarding risk-minimisation principles and processes in domestic airports and on aircraft for domestic passenger travel. Seafarers flying into Australia may need to take domestic flights to reach their ships.
Health directives by State & Territory in Legal English
Jurisdictions all over Australia have been updating their public health directives. Updates can be accessed directly at the list of authorities below.
General health rules in Plain English