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80% of Bulk Carrier crew test positive for COVID-19 off Australia coast

An Oldendorff bulk carrier anchored off Western Australia has become the latest vessel struck with a severe outbreak of COVID-19, serving as a reminder of the dangers that seafarers face during the pandemic. Currently, 80 percent of the crew aboard the 114,753 DWT bulk carrier has tested positive for the virus, although all are reported in good condition and in quarantine until they are cleared from the virus.

“We are very concerned about the health and wellbeing of our crewmembers and those caring for them,” said Oldendorff in its statement on the situation. “We have had excellent support from the Australian Department of Health, AMSA, and the Pilbara Ports Authority. The authorities have been managing the situation with upmost professionalism. Every effort is being made to contain and improve the situation as quickly as possible,” adding, « we know that this is also a difficult time for the families of the crewmembers; they have been informed and are being updated on the situation daily. »

According to the company statement, there was a crew change aboard the vessel in the Philippines on September 5, 2020. The crew change was done in compliance with the Department of Transportation in the Philippines, Protocol for Crew Change and Repatriation. All joining crewmembers were quarantined in the Philippines prior to joining the vessel. Approximately 5 days before joining the vessel, all crewmembers were tested with the viral RNA-PCR test. All crewmembers tested negative for the virus before leaving the Philippines.

The vessel arrived off Port Hedland on September 16th and has been at anchor since. The Master notified the Port Hedland authorities on arrival that two crewmembers were not feeling well. The authorities arranged for the crew to be tested and two crewmembers initially tested positive for the virus. Subsequent RNA-PCR tests have shown that 17 crewmembers have now tested positive. Fortunately, all crewmembers on board as well as in shore quarantine are feeling well with only a few seamen showing very slight infection symptoms. The authorities have arranged for a cleaning gang to go aboard the vessel and do a thorough cleaning of all surfaces.

“Our biggest concern is the health and wellbeing of the people involved. Our thoughts are with the crewmembers, caregivers, and their families at this difficult time. We will take all precautions to avoid the spread of the virus. We are very grateful for the humanitarian support of the Port Hedland community at large who have been very generous to our crewmembers. ” Photo courtesy Oldendorff