Covid Crew Cases Add to Delays

One of the unavoidable effects of ships sailing from port to port during a pandemic is that crew members become infected. Cases are handled differently among countries and states, but the outcome is always a delay in transit times.

Over the past few months we have reported on the many and varied challenges facing international shippers, including log jams of cargo, empty container shortages, vessels encountering adverse weather conditions – all resulting in consignment delays and rising freight costs. A further problem, which may not immediately be recognised as a threat, is the increasing incidence of containership crews being infected with the Covid virus. This situation sets a series of events in motion that increasingly lengthen the time you must wait for your cargo.

The Ever Balmy
Five of the 22 crew members on the 2,800 teu Ever Balmy have been hospitalised in Taiwan following an outbreak of Covid-19 onboard. The three Taiwanese and two Filipinos are part of the complement on the Evergreen vessel which arrived at the Kaohsiung container terminal on Saturday. It was to have departed for Singapore on Sunday, but is now scheduled to sail today and arrive in Singapore next Sunday.

The remaining 17 crew members must either stay on board the ship or in a hotel selected by Evergreen, and wait out a 14-day quarantine. After the isolation period, crew members must test negative for Covid-19 within three days of boarding a vessel. On board, the seafarers have to take their temperature three times daily and record the readings. Crew members also have to take turns, in groups, to have their meals. Vessel operations can resume only if no one else is diagnosed.

The ONE Contribution
On Thursday last week, some of the crew of the 8,560 TEU, ONE Contribution tested positive just before the ship was due to berth in Singapore. The vessel, owned by ONE member MOL, is currently unable to proceed with cargo operations. Shippers have been warned to expect delays.

The shipping operator is not planning any special handling for containers onboard ONE Contribution following the outbreak. Medical treatment and assistance is being given to the affected crew members by the owner and related authorities, according to the degree of each of their symptoms.

The Ken Hou
Here in Australia, 20 crew tested positive last week on board the Ken Hou at Fremantle Port. Authorities decided that all crew must stay onboard the ship. While the Ken Hou is a bulk carrier and its detention may not affect most of our readers directly, it is relevant to note that the action decided upon by the WA government means that any cargo vessel whose crew becomes infected will be treated the same. The Ken Hou is now sitting idle for a second week.

The MV Sanyu and others in Queensland
Nineteen of the 21 crew members of the cargo ship MV Sanyu tested positive for Covid-19 and ten of them were removed from the vessel after it arrived in Queensland waters from the Philippines a month ago. Queensland takes a different approach to WA, and six of the crew were transported to Brisbane for treatment.

Around the same time, in the state’s north, three seafarers were ferried from the bulk carrier Globe Electra to Townsville Hospital for treatment, while two crew members onboard another vessel, the Duhn, were transported to a hospital in Mackay. At last report, those aboard two others, the Kilian Oldendordf and the AAL Newcastle, were also being monitored for the virus.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) estimates that 150,000 international seafarers have entered the state’s waters since the start of the year on more than 7,500 ships — many from nations being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. The Philippines supplies most of the world’s ocean-going sailors — a nation of 110 million people and with more than 130,000 confirmed cases of the deadly virus.

The very nature of the shipping industry renders it vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic, making it a spreader of the virus. With no immediate end in sight, the situation only continues to add to the frustrations of importers waiting for delivery of their freight.

As licensed Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders, Colless Young handles your import and export air cargo requirements economically and professionally. Based in Brisbane, we provide a complete range of logistics services, both by air and sea – at all major Australian ports and airports. Call us for shipping schedule updates.