More seafarers test positive for COVID-19 in mainland China

Bulk carrier Argentina. Credit: Guillermo Berger/2006 River Plate report

A Capesize bulk carrier, Argentina, has been quarantined off the Port of Dandong in mainland China’s Liaoning province, after a Filipino crew member tested positive for COVID-19. There are 23 other crew members on the ship.

Vessel-tracking data shows that Argentina, built in 2010, had arrived in Dandong on 3 August 2020, carrying iron ore loaded in Port Walcott, Australia. In accordance with Chinese government regulations that all seafarers on ships arriving from overseas are to be tested for COVID-19, customs officials conducted the nucleic acid tests.

The other 23 crew members tested negative for COVID-19, but are being quarantined on the ship, while the infected seafarer has been sent to a designated treatment centre in Shenyang. Argentina and its cargo have been disinfected, with the vessel being moved to a distant location to be isolated.

There have been other cases of foreign seafarers testing positive for COVID-19 after the ships arrived in mainland China.

Chinese authorities were informed that in mid-July, 10 crew members on a bulk carrier transporting soyabeans from Brazil, now the COVID-19 epicentre of South America, had tested positive for the potentially fatal respiratory disease. The Chinese authorities learnt of this after the infected seafarers were replaced in Manila, the Philippines, and stepped up precautions ahead of the vessel’s arrival in Yantai port.

In another case, four seafarers on the bulk carrier Bunun Glory tested positive for COVID-19 after the vessel arrived in the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan. Owned by Taiwan-based company Shih Wei Navigation, Bunun Glory had departed Kanda, Japan, on 23 July and arrived in Ningbo-Zhoushan on 26 July. The ship and the remaining 10 crew are now quarantined outside Laotangshan, a sub-port of Ningbo-Zhoushan.

With the World Health Organisation stating that COVID-19 may be airborne, it is possible that seafarers can be exposed to the disease if they sail to seriously afflicted countries, even if they do not disembark from the ship.

InterManager secretary general Kuba Szymanski told SAS that when seafarers test positive for COVID-19, ship and crew managers are responsible for tracking and tracing any potential risks to which the infected seafarers may have been exposed.

He said that ship managers have been working to ensure that sufficient personal protection equipment is stored on ships.

“It’s of paramount importance that local port authorities help and assist shipping by allowing stores to be delivered on board. Co-operation with many countries is and has been superb and we are very thankful to those who understand that we human beings need to work together in this very testing and challenging times,” said Szymanski.