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C50/1998 World War II Australian Merchant Mariners - Verification of Service


DATE OF ISSUE:  9 November 1998

World War II Australian Merchant Mariners – Verification of Service


For many years, service records for Australian World War II merchant mariners have been provided on request by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).  Recent changes within AMSA, however, mean that the Authority is no longer in a position to provide this service to the Deparment.

On 18 June 1998, AMSA advised that due to its withdrawal from the Administration of the Seamen's Engagement System from 1 March 1998, the Marine Crews Section had been effectively closed down and there were no longer any support staff in the area.  AMSA also advised that it was prepared to order duplicate copies of its microfiche records for our use, provided the Department paid for it.

This proposal was accepted as an interim solution and these copies are being used to meet requests for records in disability compensation and service pension cases.  However, the Disability Compensation Branch does not have the spare resources to meet anything more than priority cases.

Following the delivery of the microfiche records, the Disability Branch investigated the possibility of scanning them onto a CD ROM either for distribution to State offices or loading onto the Department's Intranet.  The quote received for undertaking such a task was for approximately $350,000, rendering this option financially non-viable.

Current Position

AMSA allowed the Department to borrow its microfiche records for the purpose of obtaining a further six copies of them.  Once returned to AMSA, these records will be archived.

Contents of the records

The microfiche records consist of 2,704 cards of Australian merchant mariner records and 186 shipping movement records.  The merchant mariner records are in alphabetical order and span a period from the early 1920s to the early 1960s.  The shipping movement cards list ships in alphabetical order.  Each card holds up to 85 separate records, meaning that there are in the order of 250,00 separate frames.

The records were microfilmed from the original (mostly) hand-written index cards and the quality ranges from reasonable to all but unreadable.  The mariner cards include each ship the mariner served on and the dates of signing on and discharge.  The shipping cards include major ports of call and dates of arrival and departure.

Maintenance of Records

Once received, record sets are to be maintained by each State Office.  It should be borne in mind that apart from the probable difficulty in gaining access to the original material, the cost of duplicating individual cards is currently $0.50 each.  Copying a full set amounts to over $1,450.

Verification of Australian Merchant Mariner Records

Once records have been received, each State Office is responsible for verifying Australian merchant mariner claims lodged with that Office.

In relation to Commonwealth and Allied merchant mariners, arrangements remain unchanged and verification should be sought in accordance with existing procedures.