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Ports Australia calls for calm in WA

Ports Australia is urging both the Western Australian Government and shipping charterers and lines to work together to avoid circumstances where the State Government is forced to punish or even turn away ships which have passed through ports in high COVID-19 risk nations.

Ports Australia appreciates the complexities behind managing the challenges catalysed by COVID-19 as well as the Western Australian Government’s concern and objective to protect its community, but this needs to be balanced with the desire to protect the Australian economy.

The WA Government’s statement of intention surely provides a window of opportunity for charterers and the shipping industry to demonstrate the measures they are taking and are prepared to take to allay the concerns of a government which fully understands the importance of the supply chain to both its state and the wider national economies.

Ports Australia is calling for greater collaboration between all levels of government across Australia as we cannot afford to have inconsistency across our borders regarding how we treat and manage the supply chain which keeps us alive.

Western Australia with its vast surface area and distance between major ports is not dissimilar to that of Queensland, however the contrast between their respective management of the supply chain throughout the pandemic is stark.

Let’s consider QLD’s recent management of the MV Sanyu which last week entered Torres Strait waters (from the Philippines) where it alerted Australian authorities it had unwell crew on board before a multi-agency response was initiated between Maritime Safety Queensland, QLD Health, QLD Police and more. Queensland Health nurses flew out to the vessel before boarding and conducting tests which revealed 19 out of 21 of the crew had the virus (the remaining two have since tested positive). The vessel was redirected to Weipa for easier management before a portion of the crew were flown under strict infection control processes to hospitals in southeast Queensland, while a small number was left being monitored onboard to fulfil minimum manning requirements (with QLD authorities closely monitoring the health of those crew remaining on board and reserving the opportunity to bring in a crew to manage the vessel if more needed to be removed for hospitalisation).

The management of the MV Sanyu addresses three major concerns which should be considered in any similar situation across Australia: protection of Australian communities, continuation of the supply chain, and protecting international seafarers.

Ports Australia’s CEO, Mike Gallacher discussed priorities the WA Government must consider and the success of the supply chain sector thus far throughout the pandemic.

‘Ports Australia is not aware of one instance where a COVID-19 case onboard a vessel pulling into an Australian port has resulted in community transmission, which simply means our protocols are working,’ Mike said.

‘Yes, we need a practical approach to safeguarding our people and economy, but we also need a humanitarian approach to protecting international seafarers who make trade possible.

‘Ports Australia is calling for calm and cooperation and for the Western Australian Government to continue dialogue with the sector which has outperformed itself in tough times so we can avoid inconsistent policy and discord spreading across Australia,’ Mike ended.
Source: Ports Australia

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