Ship’s crew undergo Covid-19 tests at Port Taranaki
A week after two men on a fishing boat tested positive for Covid-19 following a crew change at Port Taranaki, another fishing boat docked at the facility along with crew members sick.
The Playa Zahara fishing boat docked at the port on Tuesday morning, with 15 of the 18 crew members recently suffering from flu-like symptoms.
Shortly after arriving, she was moored in an area reserved for quarantine vessels on the Moturoa quay.
Crew members were seen leaving the boat one at a time to be tested for Covid-19. Once tested, they are returned to the boat.
* Covid-19: Viking Bay ship set to dock next week, sick crew will be transferred to managed isolation
* Covid-19: Sailor has Delta variant, second ship reports crew showing flu-like symptoms
In a press release, the Taranaki DHB Public Health Unit (PHU) said it was working in conjunction with Port Taranaki to provide Covid-19 testing to crew members.
Once the tests are complete, the ship is to leave port and stay offshore until test results are available on Thursday.
Port Taranaki general manager Guy Roper said the Playa Zahara was not expected to be in port for more than four hours.
If the results show that there is no evidence of Covid-19 on board, the ship will be allowed to change crew, the Taranaki medical officer of health said, Dr Jonathan Jarman said.
Last week, two crew members of the Viking Bay fishing vessel tested positive for Covid-19 after traveling to Taranaki from Auckland for a crew change.
The couple were among a group of nine who arrived at Auckland Airport on Monday, July 5, before heading to New Plymouth and boarding at Port Taranaki.
Once the ship left Port Taranaki it was not allowed to return. It docked in Wellington on Monday and each crew member exited the ship individually to be tested.
On Tuesday, health authorities confirmed that 13 other crew members had tested positive for Covid-19.
In a press release, Roper said he was satisfied that all safety precautions were in place and that Playa Zahara posed a low risk.
“This is a different situation than in Viking Bay last week. On that occasion there were known cases of Covid-19 on board, which we considered a risk to our staff and the community, and did not therefore did not allow the ship to dock at Port Taranaki, ”he said.
Roper said the Playa Zahara had been at sea for more than three weeks and there had been no contact with others or any change of crew.
He said no Port Taranaki staff would come into contact with people on board the ship.
“If crew members return a positive Covid-19 test result, we would expect the ship to proceed to a port with managed isolation facilities nearby, as happened with the Viking bay. “
The arrival of Playa Zahara came just hours after the maritime union backed a government decision to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for port workers.
“The need to protect port workers and the community is the main concern of the union,” National Secretary Craig Harrison said in a press release.
It will be necessary to address the issues of workers who, for whatever reason, choose not to be vaccinated.
“We will work with employers to try to ensure that unvaccinated workers do not see their work in danger and that they find alternative jobs if possible. “
So far, protocols and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) by port workers have had good results, but with new variants of Covid-19 causing problems overseas, any additional precaution was needed. welcome, he said.
The situation is due to the often chaotic nature of the work of many casual workers in ports, which resulted from the policies of previous governments, Harrison said.
“After a generation of deregulation on the waterfront, you have a lot of precarious workers with irregular work patterns, and it’s hard to keep track of things in this environment.”
Port Taranaki has been approached to comment on the number of port workers who have been vaccinated.
Jarman said the PHU and Port Taranaki are taking a cautious and controlled approach to testing the crew and will follow the quarantine procedures outlined in the 1956 Health Act.
“We will follow the same quarantine process that has been used for years in shipping. The vessel will be guided to a special area of the port which is reserved for quarantined vessels.
“There will be no one needed to board the ship, and the crew members will disembark the ship one by one to be tested at the dock,” Jarman said.
“They will not come into contact with any port staff or the public, so this process poses a very low risk to the community. “
Testing staff are all vaccinated and will wear full personal protective equipment to ensure safety precautions are solid during testing.
Playa Zahara’s crew testing was just “business as usual” and evaluations showed this situation posed a very low risk to public health, he said.
“We need to be certain of the flu-like illness on the ship, so it’s just us who are on the safe side.”