Australia sends troops to help contain virus on ore ship near Port Hedland


Australian defense personnel are being deployed to Port Hedland, one of the world's largest iron ore loading ports, to help contain a coronavirus outbreak on a bulk carrier that last changed crews in the major seafaring city of Manila.

Seventeen of the 21-crew members of the carrier have tested positive for the virus, ship owner Oldendorff Carriers said in a statement.

Ten of the infected crew have been moved to hotel quarantine while seven infected workers remain on board as part of an 11-person crew, authorities said.

Oldendorff said that the Manila crew change on Sept 5 complied with all protocols.

"All crew members tested negative for the virus before leaving the Philippines," Oldendorff said.

The ship, which was scheduled to collect manganese ore which is used in steel production, is anchored off Port Hedland on Australia's northwest coast.

Western Australia state contained the virus early in the pandemic by closing its international and domestic borders. It now bars cruise ship arrivals but allows export carriers and limited international air arrivals. All international arrivals in Australia face mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.

Up to 10 Australian Defencse Force (ADF) personnel were expected to be deployed to Port Hedland after a request for assistance from the state government, an ADF spokesman said in a statement.

Australia's coronavirus hotspot state of Victoria on Tuesday reported 10 new infections in the past 24 hours, turning around a second contagion wave that only last month infected over 700 people in one day.

The country's second most populous state has placed nearly 5 million residents of its capital Melbourne under one of the world's most stringent lockdowns since early August.

The state, which accounts for the bulk of the country's over 27,000 infections, and 882 deaths, on Sunday lifted some of the restrictions, including nightly curfews.

A key indicator, the rolling 14-day average, fell to 18.2, tracking ahead of state government expectations, officials said.

"That continuous improvement will serve us well as we continue to open up," premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Tuesday. "This strategy is working (and) is delivering us those lower numbers."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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17 of 21 have the virus but troops have been sent to contain it? Sounds like a failed mission.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Most people are not aware of an incipient crisis in the maritime industry caused by Covid-19 related travel restrictions. Most mariners sail on 6 month contracts and either join their ship or depart for home from a port the ship is making a call in to load or unload cargo. They fly to or from these ports on commercial airlines using tickets provided by their employer who is often a staffing agency employed by the ships owner or the company the owner hires to operate the ship. Since nations imposed travel restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19, crew members of merchant ships all around the world have not been able to go home. The International Maritime Organization says there are over 300,000 maritime workers who have been on their ships a year or more, are off their contracts and in many cases not being paid because their contracts expired. Yet they are often prohibited from going ashore when their ships are in port and are not allowed to fly home. Crews are growing weary and making mistakes. Some are now refusing to leave ports. This threatens to disrupt international shipping everywhere for everyone if nothing is done and soon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So what are the troops supposed to do? Shoot the virus?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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