Since March, Shipping Australia has been asking maritime authorities to develop protocols that will support crew members and allow ships to be worked when there is Covid-19 among the crew.
Now Maritime Safety Queensland, supported by Queensland health, has put plans into action and demonstrated best practice in helping ill seafarers and protecting public health while keeping vital maritime trade moving.
On Thursday 16 July 2020, the ship master of the cargo ship Hokkaido Bulker reported that a crew member had flu-like symptoms on board. Subsequent testing of the whole crew found one crew member COVID-19 positive.
After immediate in-cabin isolation, the seafarer was transported ashore by Queensland Police and the Queensland Ambulance Service for treatment in hospital.
The crew disinfected the ship in accordance with the ship’s health management plan and a second round of testing has come up clear – will all results negative for COVID-19.
The ship is now scheduled to berth in Brisbane today and unload its cargo.
Shipping Australia CEO, Rod Nairn, praised the actions of Maritime Safety Queensland in its management of the incident. “Maritime Safety Queensland have done an excellent job and set an example for the other states to follow.
“They have demonstrated leadership in working to three clear priorities: protecting the health of the seafarer and crew, preventing the spread of Covid-19 to the community, and enabling maritime trade.
“They brought all interested parties together in a highly coordinated manner and communicated clearly at each stage. The ship has been handled with the minimum of delay, the vessel is being worked and trade is being facilitated.
Shipping Australia has been asking the authorities for protocols to handle COVID-19 positive seafarers. Maritime Safety Queensland has delivered. The way that the Hokkaido Bulker has been handled by Maritime Safety Queensland is an example of best practice and similar protocols should be adopted and followed by ports, other agencies and authorities around the country,” Rod Nairn said.
It is inevitable, as COVID-19 is still increasing globally, some commercial cargo vessels will arrive in Australia with COVID-19 aboard. Though with all the safety protocols in place we expect this to be rare. So far this year, with more than 8, 500 arrivals, there have been two such cargo ships. One is the Hokkaido Bulker and the other was the sheep carrier Al Kuwait in Western Australia.