Note: The WA Police Commissioner’s Self Quarantine Directions are subject to further interpretation, consideration and discussion that is underway in Western Australia. The following article reflects the interpretation of Shipping Australia as at late Friday 27 March.
Western Australia’s Police Commissioner has amended his Self-Quarantine Directions, issued last week, to allow shipping companies to change crews in the State.
On-signing and off-signing ship crews now fall within the category of “essential service” workers, which are exempt from the emergency Self-Quarantine Directions. They also potentially fall within the “transiting passengers” exemption. These Directions are now consistent with the national policy distributed by the Australian Border Force.
Subsequent to advocacy by Shipping Australia, a revised set of rules, known as the “Self-Quarantine Following Interstate Travel Directions,” was issued by Christopher Dawson, the WA Commissioner of Police and State Emergency Coordinator, shortly after midday on Tuesday 24 March 2020.
They came into immediate effect.
General principle and exemptions
The general principle under both the old and new Directions is the same: people arriving at an airport in Western Australia by air are generally required to go into quarantine for 14-days.
However, the new Directions have two exemptions that could apply to on-signing and off-signing ship crews.
Firstly, there is an exemption for people performing an “essential service”.
There are many different types of essential service workers listed in the new Directions. One category of exempted worker is anyone “who in the course of their duties is responsible for provision of transport or freight and logistics services into and out of Western Australia provided that the person remains in Western Australia for only so long as is reasonably required to perform his or her duties”.
Secondly, there is also a “transiting passengers” exemption.
Anyone who can provide satisfactory evidence to the authorities that he or she will leave Western Australia on a flight or on a ship within 24 hours is exempt. That person must take “all reasonable steps” to avoid coming within 1.5 metres of anyone else.
Both of these exemptions could apply to ship crews.
Meanwhile, ship crews who arrive in Western Australia by sea but do not leave the vessel are also exempt from the Self-Quarantine Following Interstate Travel Directions.
The earlier set of Directions had the unfortunate side-effect of preventing ship crews who had arrived at an international airport from getting on a domestic flight without first observing a 14-day quarantine. On-signing ship crews could not then immediately fly out from, say, Perth’s international airport, to a regional coastal port-town to join a ship.
Accommodating multiple ship crews, which can be upwards of 20 people per crew, for 14-days at a time, would have created an intolerable operational burden. Certain cargoes, such as liquefied natural gas, can be adversely affected by delay. Having ships waiting around also causes a range of costly knock-on adverse effects elsewhere in the logistics and ocean shipping industries.
These changes to the Directions show the effectiveness of the close liaison between industry bodies, and state and federal government departments through regular teleconferences convened by the federal Department of Infrastructure.