Where crew wish to sign-off a vessel in Australia, there are a number of requirements that must be met.
'Seaports - Notification of Crew Sign-Off' (Form B521) form contains certain bio-data details of crew wishing to sign-off and allows the Department of Home Affairs to perform an appropriate risk assessment and to check a crewmembers lawful status prior to signing the crewmember off a vessel.
This form must be submitted (by hand, fax or e-mail) to the local Department office 24 hours prior to the expected sign-off taking place. Failure to submit the form, 24 hours in advance may result in delays in officer attendance for sign-off or delays during sign-off processing. Where agents/masters receive notice less than 24 hours prior to a crew change-taking place, it is expected that they will provide this form to the local Department office as soon as possible and provide a reason for the late notice.
The form includes the following data:
- Vessel details;
- Crew bio-data;
- Expected sign-off date and time;
- Includes a space to indicate the sign-off reason - for example, Repatriation, hospitalisation, etc., as well as any relevant sign-off details (for example, flight details, hospital details, etc.).
- Number of days requested - the minimum sign-off period is 5 days. Where more than 5 days is required this is to be requested via the form. It should be noted that the Department can only approve up to 10 days for a sign-off period. Where more than 10 days is required this will need to be referred to the Regional Seaports officer.
After providing this form to the Department, agents/masters will still need to make contact with the local office to determine where and when the actual sign-off processing activity will occur. The sign-off processing may occur on board the vessel, at Customs House or some other location as advised by the Department.
It should be noted that for crew to sign-off a vessel, the vessel must have arrived in Australia (for example, be in a Customs S.15 port, be at an Australian Resource Installation, etc.). Crew attempting to sign-off a vessel that has not yet arrived in Australia (i.e. before its first port arrival) or after it has departed Australia (i.e. after its last port departure), are to be treated as passengers, and are ineligible to utilise their MCV to be considered lawful in Australia (i.e. they need a visa other than the MCV to be lawful). Agents/masters are to utilise the same form to advise the Department of 'sign-offs' occurring under these circumstances. Where crew do depart a vessel prior to its arrival in Australia, they are to be removed from the inwards crew list - they will be inwards cleared as a passenger when they arrive in Australia.
Crew sign-offs from a vessel that is between ports in Australia can be approved subject to master/agents obtaining relevant permissions from the local Department office.
Where crew have signed-off a vessel and their departure from Australia (or sign-on to another vessel) is delayed, it is important that advice is sought from the Department on how they may be able to extend their sign-off period to avoid becoming unlawful.