Any of you who’ve lost faith in government’s ability to get things done, hold onto your hats: The Australian government has made good on a promise to straighten out the quagmire of regulations governing visas for crewmembers entering the country.
As I explained to you in January, the Labor Party, which won election in November 2007, announced it would customize visas for crews entering the Queensland region aboard foreign-flagged yachts, particularly charter yachts. The policy in place was pretty complicated, but essentially decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, causing untold confusion and frustration.
While meetings are still being held to determine a final fix for the situation, crewmembers can now receive what’s called a “Business (Short Stay)” visa, a.k.a. “Visa subclass 456 Business – short stay.” This allows them to stay in the country for up to three months, a solution that eases not just chartering but also refit work. After all, plenty of owners have their captains and even some crewmembers oversee overhauls on their behalf, and the megayacht yards and related businesses in Australia are working hard to raise awareness of their abilities.
Local Queensland officials were certainly well aware of this latter fact and therefore partnered with the marine industry lobby the federal government. “We know we have the perfect natural marine environment that is unmatched anywhere in the world,” explains Desley Boyle, the Queensland Minister for Tourism, Regional Development, and Industry. “But there is much more to the industry than just the benefits received from hosting the world’s holidaying rich and elite. Manufacturing, refitting, maintenance is where the serious money and opportunities exist.” She estimates that the marine industry in Queensland (particularly Cairns, perhaps the most popular port for megyachts) generates AUS$125 million (about US$118 million) each year and employs 350 people.
One major step in the right direction. More to come, I’m sure.