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Tougher checks for foreign sea crew in $100m border security boost.

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Tougher Checks for Foreign Sea Crew in $100m Border Security Boost

The Australian Government will provide a $100 million boost to border security through the introduction of a new Maritime Crew Visa category, to provide tougher checks of foreign sea crew.

The move was announced today by Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, and Minister for Justice and Customs, Chris Ellison. The Government is committing $100.3 million over five years for the new visa.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs will receive $55.3 million for IT systems associated with the new visa and to record sea crew movement records; employ 19 additional Regional Seaports Officers to assist industry with the new visa, conduct vessel boardings and manage compliance and employ additional staff in DIMIA’s Entry Operations Centre to support the shipping industry.

The Australian Customs Service will receive $39.5m for 66 new Customs Officers to enforce the new provisions as part of Customs’ vessel clearance process and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation will receive $5.5m under the package. The new visa applies from July 2007.

‘The Australian Government is constantly looking at means of further improving the protection of our borders from an increasing range of threats,’ Minister Vanstone said.

‘Seafarers are currently granted Special Purpose Visas on arrival in Australia following checks against DIMIA’s Movement Alert List. This new visa category will ensure security checking for foreign sea crew is consistent with checking already in place for most other visa categories.

‘In future, sea crew will need to apply for and be granted a Maritime Crew Visa before arriving in Australia, allowing these checks and any issues of concern to be addressed well ahead of arrival in Australia.’

About 650 000 people travel to and from Australia each year by sea - 90 per cent of them are crew on visiting commercial ships.

‘The extra funding will allow Customs to deploy an additional 66 officers at key shipping ports around Australia,’ Senator Ellison said.

‘It’s important that the Government and shipping industry continue to work closely on the introduction of the visa.

‘I thank the industry for its collaboration in the development of border security initiatives and look forward to the industry’s continued assistance in implementation.

‘It’s important to remember that the new visa is as much about enabling the entry of genuine foreign crew into Australia as it is about ensuring our border security is among the best in the world,’ Senator Ellison said.

22 December 2005