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Exemption from coverage

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Some or all employees on a particular ship can be exempted from coverage by the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act) in certain circumstances.

Exemptions are granted by the Seacare Authority under section 20A of the Seafarers Act.


How exemptions can be initiated

Exemptions granted by the Seacare Authority can be initiated in two ways:

  1. though the own motion of the Seacare Authority, or
  2. at the request of an employer or operator.

Exemptions can apply for up to one year from the date they come into effect. A further exemption can be sought to cover an additional period.

Exemptions of own motion by the Seacare Authority

List of current exemptions of own motion

There are currently two exemptions granted at the Seacare Authority’s own motion:

These exemptions are multiple vessel exemptions that apply to employment on a large number of ships.

The multiple vessel exemptions apply to the Seafarers Act. They do not apply to the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS (MI) Act).

Reason for the multiple vessel exemptions

The multiple vessel exemptions clarify coverage provisions and ensure that employment on a vessel or voyage is not unintentionally brought under the Seacare scheme, particularly without the knowledge of the employer.

In Samson Maritime Pty Ltd v Aucote (Aucote decision), the Full Federal Court held on 22 December 2014 that the Seacare scheme applies to all 'employees', as defined by the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act) of a trading, financial or foreign corporation.

The Aucote decision substantially shifted workers' compensation and work health and safety arrangements in the Australian maritime industry. Ships and employees that were historically considered to be covered by state workers' compensation and work health and safety laws are covered by the Commonwealth Seacare scheme.

In response to the Aucote decision, the Australian Government introduced the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (Amendment Act). The Seacare Authority and Minister also granted declarations and the multiple vessel exemptions, affecting the coverage of the Seacare scheme.

These actions were taken to:

  • limit the coverage of the Seacare scheme to what was broadly understood to be the case before the Aucote decision (that the Seacare scheme does not apply to ships engaged in intrastate trade and not engaged in interstate or international trade)
  • provide certainty to the maritime industry regarding coverage of schemes.

How to apply the multiple vessel exemptions

The multiple vehicle exemptions have lists (schedules) of ship names.

If your ship is included in a multiple vessel exemption list, this does not automatically mean that employment on this ship is exempt from coverage by the Seafarers Act.

If your ship meets the criteria outlined in the first page of the exemption document, the ship’s employment remains covered by the Seacare scheme. Generally, employees on ships which are engaged in trade or commerce between states (interstate) or within a territory, are covered by the Seacare scheme.

See Who is covered for further guidance. If you are still not sure, you should seek legal advice.

Changing the status of your ship

If your ship is not listed under the multiple vessel exemptions listing and you would like to ensure it is exempted, you can apply for an exemption.

If you believe your vessel is exempted from the Seafarers Act by a multiple vessel exemption and you would like to opt into the scheme, please contact the Seacare Helpdesk on 02 6275 0070 or at seacare@comcare.gov.au.

Employer requests for an exemption

List of current exemptions following an employer request

Exemptions granted by the Seacare Authority following a request by an employer or operator are published in a financial year listing.

This listing is updated each quarter during the current financial year.

The list is also included in our annual report. See the Seacare Authority annual reports for historical information on exemptions granted by the Seacare Authority,

Why employers seek an exemption

An employer seeks an exemption when they do not want the Seafarers Act to apply to their employees.

This situation can arise due to a:

  • one-off voyage of a ship, which brings it into coverage by the Seafarers Act
  • where a ship is operating within a territory only, or
  • where workers’ compensation insurance may be available at a lower cost under a state or territory scheme.

Depending on the scope of the exemption granted by the Seacare Authority, an exemption may mean that employer responsibilities under the Seacare scheme do not apply, including holding insurance, reporting berths, employee and ship details, and paying levies to the Seacare Authority.

How to apply for an exemption

To apply for an exemption, under section 20 of the Seafarers Act, complete the Request for Exemption from the Application of the Seafarers Act application form (PDF, 303.5 KB).

The form and Exemption guidelines (PDF, 171.0 KB) provide information about any evidence required and the factors which are considered in making a decision.

How the Seacare Authority assesses a request for exemption

To assist it in determining applications for an exemption, the Seacare Authority considers factors and information outlined in the Exemption guidelines (PDF, 171.0 KB) and the Request for Exemption from the Application of the Seafarers Act application form (PDF, 303.5 KB).

The factors that the Seacare Authority considers in granting an exemption (in effect from 1 July 2021) are:

  • the availability of workers’ compensation insurance under a state or territory scheme, at a cost lower than that available under the Seacare scheme
  • the prescribed ships’ proposed voyage does not constitute a regular trading or operating pattern and is incidental to the primary operations of the ship
  • The prescribed ship/s are operating within a territory only
  • The prescribed ship is expected to voyage between two places outside Australia for a period of 12 months or more and the majority of the crew on the prescribed ship are not residents of Australia.

No exemption is automatic. The Seacare Authority considers each application on its merits and takes account of, but is not restricted by, the guidelines for exemption.

Page last reviewed: 06 October 2021
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Date printed 21 Oct 2021

https://www.seacare.gov.au/coverage-legislation/exemption-from-coverage