The Western Australian government says stricter rules are needed around the entry of international ship crews into Australian waters after a serious outbreak of the disease aboard the manganese tanker Patricia Oldendorff off the coast of Pilbara.
A total of 17 out of 21 Patricia Oldendorff crew members tested positive for COVID-19, with nine remaining on the vessel and the other 12 in Port Hedland’s quickly assembled hotel quarantine arrangement. The 8 cases confirmed yesterday by the virus from the ship meant that WA had more new COVID-19 cases than Victoria on the day that the unwelcome mark was hit in almost four months. Of those with the infection, doctors said none were severely unwell and most were asymptomatic.
They have also consistently insisted that there was no threat to the broader world, saying the ship and hotel quarantine had prevented the epidemic.
Health Minister Roger Cook, however, claimed that the incident raised significant questions about the management of ship crews entering Australia, calling for further monitoring. To ensure that these international guidelines are a little stronger, we need to continue collaborating with the shipping companies, with other governments and with the Commonwealth.
I’m concerned that these [members] of the crew were on the vessel from the Philippines and that one or more of them were unwell.
But the government’s call for stricter regulation arrives in the face of industry calls for more assistance to assist seafarers who have been stranded on boats because of COVID-19 constraints for months on end.
Maritime Business Australia, the industry body, said that the sector was now going to great lengths to avoid outbreaks on freight ships.
There are very very tight controls in place and the vessels have in place the COVID management plans [are] extremely good, said Teresa Lloyd, chief executive of the company.
There are so few instances that we encounter onboard boats.
Ms. Lloyd said that as crew changes took place, the industry was trying to limit “gaps in the system,” with procedures also requiring 14-day pre-departure quarantine and two rounds of testing.
The epidemic of Patricia Oldendorff is not the first of its kind in WA, with the transmission of coronavirus to live export vessels in Al Kuwait subsequently leading to more than 20 confirmed cases. Any of those crew members were rescued and put into quarantine in Perth from the ships.