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Australia’s maritime union warns shipping practices risk importing COVID-19 to community

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SYDNEY, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) — The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has warned that the country is at serious risk of ships arriving from COVID-19 hotspots and spreading the virus into the community through contact with port staff.

In a statement released Thursday, the MUA called for the state of Western Australia (WA) to introduce tighter restrictions on vessels arriving after spending less than 14 days at sea, similar to measures already in place in other states.

WA was in the midst of containing an outbreak on board cargo vessel Patricia Oldendorff, which as of Friday remained anchored offshore with most crew members testing positive for the virus.

“The infection of the crew when sailing the Patricia Oldendorff into Port Hedland is a stark reminder of the risks WA’s Maritime Borders poses to our community,” the statement said.

“The government has done the right thing at the airports and land borders but the neglect of the maritime borders in a state with Australia’s largest coastline is reckless and not acceptable.”

According to the MUA, ships arriving from COVID-19 hotspots will sometimes spend less than a week at sea before berthing at one of WA’s 17 ports.

Once berthed crew members work in close proximity with WA port services employees to discharge their cargo, posing a risk of spread which could reach the broader community.

“Simply relying on seafarers to quarantine at home in an overseas coronavirus hotspot or asking a Ship’s Master to declare any sick crew members is not enough,” MUA National President Chris Cain said.

Cain warned that continuing with practices as they were will eventually lead to a “massive outbreak” of COVID-19 in Australia.

“The only certainty the people of Western Australia can have in this is the implementation of a strong approach to our maritime borders requiring vessels to remain at sea for at least 14 days before they dock in a Western Australian port,” he said. Enditem

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