• Yachts on anchor in Fiji.
    Yachts on anchor in Fiji.
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Currently there are well over 300 vessels carrying over 600 crew members in the South Pacific region that are displaced and facing very uncertain futures.

Whilst they may be “stuck in paradise” travel restrictions related to Covid19 mean these vessels and as such the crewmembers aboard the vessels themselves are fast running out of options.

Why? For the safety of both the vessels themselves and the crewmembers aboard, the majority of these vessels need to transit from their current locations to arrive in a destination such as Australia or New Zealand for the purpose of being located outside of the area known to be effected by the South Pacific Cyclone Season, which officially commences on 1 November 2020. Vessel insurance conditions also make this a requirement.

In normal circumstances the majority of these vessels would now, or in the very near future, be en route to Australia or New Zealand where they would spend the upcoming cyclone season, however, with no indication as to when borders may reopen in either Australia or New Zealand these vessels and their crew members, some of which are families with young children aboard, are desperate for a solution.

Australia has been a popular and desirable destination for these vessels to spend cyclone season with the vast majority of them arriving in SE Queensland during October and remaining in Australia until at least July the following year. This sees the average period of stay being 9 months.

Fiji benefits from Yachting Blue Lanes Initiative

Recently Fiji recognised the opportunity that the yachting community offers during this crisis and created Blue Lanes which provided yachts with the opportunity to visit Fiji as the migrate westward. Whilst this initiative has been welcomed by the yachting community for most it is not a viable solution to the problem facing yachts in regard to seeking refuge during cyclone season. Fiji is located in the area of the pacific that is impacted by cyclones and for most of these vessels the risks of their vessels remaining in Fiji during cyclone season are significant. For more information about the Blue Lane initiative visit: https://www.fbcnews.com.fj/business/first-blue-lane-yacht-brings-in-40000-in-two-days/

High Yield

In a recent survey of these vessels it was revealed that on average each vessel would spend $4000.00 per month during their stay excluding costs related to vessel repairs, maintenance & or refitting. This equates to a spend per vessel of $36,000.00. Given that in a typical year approximately 200 of these vessels visit Australia, their contribution to the economy is in the order of seven million dollars ($7,000,000.00.) Much of this money is typically spend in region areas as opposed to cities and as such benefits regional small businesses and the local communities.

The survey also revealed that during their stay an additional $25,000.00 per vessel will be spent on vessel related repairs, maintenance and or refitting. This equates to an additional five million dollars ($5,000,000.00) being injected in the marine sector, the majority of which comprises small to medium size business operators.

Low Risk

Given the isolated nature of their current everyday existence & combined with the fact that whilst making the voyage from the Pacific to Australia, the majority will spend 14 days or more at sea and as such have zero contact with anyone other than those aboard the vessel the COVID19 infection risk profile of those aboard these vessels is surely negligible? It is our feeling that when combined with the current COVID testing & mandatory self-isolation procedures on arrival those aboard these vessels those aboard these vessels should be considered likely candidates for receiving travel exemptions under compelling or compassionate grounds.

Unfortunately however this has not been the case to date, despite many applications for travel exemptions having been submitted and subsequently refused with out any real explanation as to why.

Can you help the Down Under Rally to assist these stranded yachts?

In an attempt to facilitate the arrival of these vessels and their crewmembers in Australia The Down Under Rally has created the Down Under Dash. Down Under Dash participants are fully informed to ensure the vessels and all those aboard are compliant in respect to the usual pre and post arrival procedures, as well as additional arrival procedures related to Covid-19.

More information is available at: https://www.downunderrally.com/down-under-dash

On behalf of those aboard these stranded vessels and those businesses here in Australia that will benefit as a result of their visitation The Down Under Rally is seeking the urgent assistance of any individual, government or non government organisation that can assist us in getting travel exemptions approved for these visitors and as such create a pathway for these vessels to come to Australia.

If you can share this article that will help. In addition if you believe you are able to get the draw the attention of those in government that may be able to assist please do so and please, if you have a suggestion, do not hesitate to contact the Down Under Rally via email.

John Hembrow, Director,Down Under Rally Pty Ltd

Email: downunderrally@gmail.com

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