The Missionary Work of the Catholic Church

The Welfare of Seafarers

We, the Catholic Bishops of Australia are deeply edified by the response of the Maritime Industry to the Forum on Seafarers’ Welfare held in Melbourne on 22-23 August 2000, sponsored by the Department of Transport and Regional Services and hosted by the Apostleship of the Sea and the Australian Council of the Mission to Seafarers.

We welcome and support the initiative taken by the Governmental and Maritime Industry to develop a National Seafarers’ Welfare Advisory Council and Port Welfare Committees throughout Australia. It is vital that the on-ship environment not put seafarers’ lives in unnecessary danger or seafarers in sub-human conditions of life and work.

It is distressing that not all ship-owners and charterers appear to be earnestly seeking to ensure that their ships are safe and their seafarers’ conditions worthy of human beings. For example, some “Flags of Convenience” ships continue to operate with impunity, despite their having little regard for human dignity, for our country’s laws, and for our environment. As we commend Australia’s maritime safety authority for the stronger line it is taking with regard to such ‘ships of shame’, ceaseless vigilance and action on the part of all who must or can assist the needs of seafarers are called for.

The now scheduled development of Port Seafarers’ Welfare Committees will not only ensure the support of the work of seafarers’ welfare agencies: it will, at each local level, help the efficiency and enhance the reputation of the Australian Maritime Industry and show the world that Australia has deeply at heart the welfare of all.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference
May 2001