Six crew members aboard livestock carrier Al Kuwait (IMO 9590931) have now tested positive for coronavirus. The vessel arrived from the UAE and was allowed to dock in Fremantle, Western Australia, last Friday May 22nd after being granted permission to enter the port by Federal Authorities.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said that the ship was cleared for docking despite the ship’s master notifying the Federal Department of Agriculture – which oversees quarantine measures on the waterfront – that several crew members were sick.
Fremantle Ports said that “after the ship’s arrival in port, Fremantle Ports became aware of information provided to it by a third party in relation to the possibility of a sick crew member on board the vessel, which resulted in relevant Government Authorities being alerted. The Department of Health then attended the vessel on Sunday afternoon to conduct checks of seven crew aboard the ship. The test results were confirmed yesterday morning, with six crew members testing positive. The crew have been required to remain aboard the ship at all times, in line with current restrictions. All interactions with the Al Kuwait and its crew are being managed by WA Health and the WA Police Force. Apart from the six people now in isolation, no member of Al Kuwait’s crew has been ashore or will be allowed to go ashore.”
According to local media reports, 27 crew members of a total of 48 have been evacuated from the ship and screened, awaiting test results.
They have been placed in a local hotel in Freemantle where they will stay for two weeks. Talks are reportedly underway to fly in a healthy crew from the UAE to take over the vessel.
MUA said that the new cluster has forced local maritime workers who boarded the vessel into self-isolation. “The ship has not been loaded and is not due to depart at this point in time,” Fremantle Ports said.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Wednesday May 27th that the issue of the six sailors has been taken over by WA Health in conjunction with its Department of Agriculture. “They were advised according to the protocols several days before the ship docked in Fremantle and that information was passed on to WA Health at this time,” he said, adding that “the six sailors, by the way, are not severely unwell. They are in hotel quarantine, safely for them, safely for the public of WA and the other sailors on board are being monitored for their own health.”
“We do, of course, want to continue trading with the rest of the world and that’s really important. And so we do have a fairly large number of ships coming with rather small crews and no passengers into Australian waters and we have a process in relation to that which has worked well this time and I’m very confident with how that is working, ” he added.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the ship would not be able to return to the Middle East before the June 1st northern summer live export deadline, which was implemented in 2019 after the Awassi Express mass sheep death scandal. However, the independent regulator might grant an exemption.
2016-built, Kuwait-flagged, 36,028 gt Al Kuwait is owned and managed by Livestock Transport of Safat, Kuwait. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Eastern Syndicate) on behalf of Livestock Transport & Trading Co, KSC.