- Australian workers have been forced to board a ship fresh out of China.
- Despite concerns that 26 crew had not been adequately isolated or tested for coronavirus.
- DP World Australia threatened to sack the team if they refused to board the vessel.
- The OOCL Shanghai arrived in Melbourne in Australia on March 24 and place itself under 14-day isolation.
- Sea pilots must not board vessels until the 14-day isolation period had expired.
- Ships that dock at northern ports was kept out at sea before berthing in Australia.
- The boarding was approved by Australian Border Force and WorkSafe Victoria.
According to an article published in Daily Mail UK, Australian workers have been forced to board a ship fresh out of China despite concerns its 26 crew had not been adequately isolated or tested for coronavirus.
Forced to board the ship
The dozen-person stevedore team on Tuesday night boarded the OOCL Shanghai just hours after it berthed at Melbourne’s West Swanson Dock.
Daily Mail Australia has been told the terminal’s operator, DP World Australia, threatened to sack the terrified team if they refused to board the vessel.
Days before it had visited Shanghai and Qingdao in China, where the deadly virus was discovered in December.
Under tough new border control guidelines, ship crews entering Australia from China must be kept in 14 days isolation from the moment the ship sets sail from its departure port.
The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Sydney on Friday before berthing at Brisbane on March 30.
New border control guidelines
Under the new border control guidelines, shipmasters must notify Australian border control if any of its crew is showing signs of coronavirus symptoms before being allowed to dock.
Under the rules, the crew on the OOCL Shanghai must remain in isolation until at least the vessel arrives in Sydney.
The OOCL Shanghai arrived in Melbourne just after 9 pm on Tuesday night – a little over an hour after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced tough new restrictions on all Australians.
These include limiting social gatherings to ten people, a blanket ban on overseas travel and closing down more workplaces to curb the spread of coronavirus.
WHO measures and cautionary statements regarding COVID-19
According to the World Health Organization, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.
The revelations come amid a finger-pointing fiasco about who allowed infected passengers to lose from a cruise ship that docked in Sydney.
More than 100 passengers on the Ruby Princess, which disembarked in Sydney on Thursday, have since been confirmed to have the coronavirus.
Some 13 passengers showed respiratory symptoms before disembarkation at 6 is on Thursday, with three testings positive to COVID-19.
Australian crew feel betrayed
DP World staff told Daily Mail Australia they had felt abandoned by the company, its union, and the Australian government.
One stevedore, who wished to remain anonymous over fears he would be sacked, said DP World ignored their concerns over boarding the container ship.
“If they quarantined the thing properly we have been happy to have boarded. The thing is a death ship for all we know“ he said.
The Australian crew donned gloves and masks while on the ship and all went home to their families immediately after finishing their shift.
“We were stood over to work or we would lose our jobs,“ the worker said. “If you don’t do the job you’ll be stood down,“ was the exact words.
Stevedores claim their union delegate “took off“ hours before the ship docked so he would not have to deal with the fallout.
Apprehensive of Maritime Union of Australia
Members pay thousands of dollars a year to be represented by the notoriously militant Maritime Union of Australia, which recently becomes a division of the powerful construction union.
“They don’t want industrial action at the moment, so we just had to cop it,“ the source said.
The boarding was ticked off by Australian Border Force and WorkSafe Victoria, he said.
“WorkSafe backed away from it. They were too scared to even come down,“ he said. “Everyone knew this ship was coming in and they’ve all run for the hills.“
Ex-employee slams the company
One ex-employee of DP World took to social media last night to slam the company.
“If you were in this position what would you do? A container ship has arrived from China which has docked at three Chinese ports in the last 14 days,“ he wrote.
“Would you get up on the ship to work it, not knowing if the crew is carrying coronavirus and without measures (being) taken to (guarantee) the workers’ safety by the company?“
“Also, how would you react if you were told if you didn’t, you would be sent home without pay or possibly sacked?“
Need for pilots to be quarantined
Daily Mail Australia has been told concerns are also being held for the sea pilot who navigated the vessel through Melbourne’s heads into Port Phillip Bay and into the terminal.
“Pilots should be quarantined,“ one DP World Australia insider said. “But the boss is not the Australian government. If the government allows them to dock, why wouldn’t the boss? The ship is customs checked, the Port of Melbourne lets the ship in, what is the terminal to do about it? We have to unload it.“
Maritime industry observer and specialist journalist Dale Crisp told Daily Mail Australia that Australians had nothing to worry about.
“Taiwan is not China – it’s exactly the opposite. China wants it to be China but Taiwan is still independent and continues to fight the fight,“ he said.
Mr. Crisp said shipping lines coming out of China had been going to Melbourne first for more than a month so that sea pilots would not need to board vessels until the 14-day isolation period had expired.
“Border Force would not of let it in and pilots wouldn’t have boarded it,“ he said.
Ships kept out at sea
Furthermore, Mr. Crisp said ships that docked at northern ports were kept out at sea before berthing in Australia and had been doing so for more than a month.
“They have changed the port rotation to ensure these 14-day quarantines are strictly observed,“ he said. “(Australia) was ahead of the curve in getting this going.“
Mr. Crisp said it would be ‘madness’ for shipping lines to flout the regulations.
“If something like that happened, and that caused the widening and tightening of the bans, they’re ruined,“ he said. “I don’t know who fired up the wharfies at West Swanson, but the idea that their union has abandoned them sounds like someone has spent too much time in the tea room reading social media.“
He said any vessel entering Australian waters had always needed to prove its ship met our strict regulatory requirements.
“The master of the ship has to make a statutory declaration about the state of health about anybody on board, they just would not have let it in,“ Mr. Crisp said.
OOCL dictates safety measures for crew
On March 1, OOCL stated the company required all crew to undergo temperature checks and to wear masks.
It further outlined other precautions it had taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including “canceling leave requests from the crew, suspending crew replacement, restricting shore passes for the crew in Chinese ports and other ports subject to measures being implemented by local authorities and temperature checking any personnel that board OOCL vessels.“
A WorkSafe Victoria spokesman said it was making inquiries into the incident.
A DP World spokesman told Daily Mail Australia it was “working resolutely“ to protect its workers and the “communities in which it operates.“
“Our Covid-19 response focuses on how to keep our ports and terminals operational and this is achieved by prioritizing safety,“ it said.
“The OOCL Shanghai had been cleared to berth at DP World Melbourne by the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Biosecurity officers who are responsible for all border clearance processes. In addition, DP World conducts rigorous safety and quarantine processes on every vessel that visits our terminals. The designated shift worked the vessel, a decision that was supported by WorkSafe Victoria who conducted an investigation into the incident, confirming all appropriate steps had been taken.“
Keeping a close watch on crew members
OOCL Shanghai said: “We have been aware that many countries have taken precautionary measures related to COVID-19 and issued guidance to commercial vessels and seafaring professionals to follow when conducting business and operations in their respective jurisdictions. Some of these measures include keeping a close watch of the health of OOCL crew members, reporting any health and safety-related concerns to the local authorities, as well as maintaining good hygiene in the workplace. OOCL takes safety and security very seriously and fully respects the rules and regulations of the local authorities where we operate.“
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