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InterManager seeks to clarify virus measures after infections

Following positive coronavirus tests of crew on board two bulkers that arrived in Australia from Philippines in recent weeks, InterManager proposes a tweak to quarantine procedures

InterManager recommends that seafarers should be quarantined for 14 days prior to their coronavirus tests. The suggestion is being discussed with industry stakeholders

INTERMANAGER, the trade association for the shipmanagement industry, is proposing a tweak to quarantine measures to avoid further cases of coronavirus infections on board vessels.

Two outbreaks have been reported on bulkers arriving in Australia’s Port Hedland in recent weeks after taking on crew in the Philippines who tested negative on departure.

Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines said that seven crew out of 20 tested positive on its capesize Vega Dream

MOL said that one of the seven crew had boarded the vessel in mid-August, while the others had joined the ship on September 24. They had all complied with protocols as required by the country of embarkation.

According to InterManager, the ship underwent “stringent health and safety protocols” during the crew change and all rules were followed. Upon reaching Australia, one crew member “turned positive” with the virus, while another developed fever.

“It may be that at the time they were swabbed on departure, the virus was just starting, and only manifested after the fifth day,” the group’s secretary-general Captain Kuba Szymanski said.

At the end of September, Oldendorff Carriers said that 17 of its crew on Patricia Oldendorff tested positive for the virus after a crew change in Manila. 

InterManager is strongly advising its members that seafarers need to be quarantined for 14 days ideally before their coronavirus tests rather than five days being observed in some quarters, Capt Szymanski said. “If the seafarer is tested within five days, we do not have 100% assurance that they are Covid-19 free.”

He added: “We have about 50% of our principals that have agreed to do this and we are working on getting that percentage up.” 

However, this may be met with opposition from shipowners who push shipmanagers for a shorter time in quarantine to drive down costs, especially if they are being kept in a hotel, he observed. 

Lloyd’s List understands that InterManager is discussing these measures in a meeting today with industry stakeholders including the United Nations, World Health Organization, the European Union, the International Maritime Organization and its non-governmental representatives such as BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping, among others. 

Current industry protocols, which are on their third version since being introduced in May, do not stipulate a unified period of quarantine, stressing the necessity instead to observe local requirements.

According to local media, Western Australia’s health minister Roger Cook has called on the federal government to take action, to make sure that the Philippines was adhering to crew change arrangements.

“These poor crew are having to join these vessels under very arduous circumstances and conditions,” Mr Cook said. “The fact that they are put on the vessel in a manner that potentially gives them the coronavirus is really of great concern.”

Maritime Industry Australia chief executive Teresa Lloyd also urged the federal government to send a team to the Philippines to assess quarantine standards and facilities, according to local media. 

“At the moment Australia has not communicated what we think is acceptable, and we are just receiving what other nations are prepared to give,” Ms Lloyd was quoted as saying. “I think we need to be quite clear. We need to help them and we need to make sure they know what it is we think is acceptable.”

Pilbara Ports Authority, which runs Port Hedland, Ashburton and Dampier, issued a marine notice about steps to be taken for vessels intending to call at its facilities. 

“Vessels will generally be considered for berthing on completion of the 14-day quarantine period since departing the last international port, subject to no crew having fallen ill or showing Covid-19 symptoms,” during that period, it said.

 

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