A dozen crew members on a ship that docked in Sydney have tested positive for coronavirus, forcing local port workers to get tested and isolate.
- One of the crew members who contracted COVID-19 died at sea
- None of the crew disembarked the ship in Sydney
- The maritime union is calling for rapid testing of international seafarers at ports
Fifteen Port Botany workers boarded the vessel when it was docked for 24 hours between March 31 and April 1 but none of the crew disembarked.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the Inge Kosan, a bulk liquids ship, travelled from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea before leaving Sydney to go to Vanuatu.
They said authorities in Vanuatu confirmed 12 of the 13 crew members, including one man who died at sea, tested positive for COVID-19.
The dead mariner’s body washed up on a beach near Port Vila on April 11. The cause of death has not been confirmed yet.
Vanuatu’s main island entered a three-day lockdown after the dead Filipino man tested positive.
Of the 15 Sydney workers who boarded the vessel to conduct “routine port activities”, 11 have returned negative results.
The remaining test results are expected to be returned today.
NSW Health said those who boarded the vessel adhered to COVID-19-safe procedures.
“Those workers interviewed to date have confirmed they were wearing personal protective equipment,” the spokesperson said.
Authorities are also investigating whether two additional workers also boarded the Inge Kosan in Sydney.
The vessel had been in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea where there has been a surge in coronavirus cases.
By the end of March, positive cases had doubled in a week with the national total number of cases now exceeding 10,000.
This week the Maritime Union asked National Cabinet to urgently implement rapid testing of international seafarers at Australian ports.
A spokesman said ensuring that all international arrivals are tested will improve biosecurity.
“This latest incident vindicated the union’s repeated warnings that the current biosecurity system, which relies on a ship self-declaring illness onboard before COVID testing is undertaken, is fundamentally flawed,” the spokesman said.
The warning comes after a number of ships in Australian waters, including a vessel off the coast in Western Australia, have had COVID-19 positive crew members on board.