Australia’s maritime union have criticised what they describe as the government’s “non-existent” response to the threat of the Wuhan coronavirus at the country’s ports.
The Maritime Union of Australia said there had been a failure to implement adequate checks for coronavirus infections on vessels arriving at Australian ports.
Merchant vessels are required to self-declare any quarantine or biosecurity threats before arrival at Australian ports and the union noted that most merchant cargo vessels were unlikely to have a doctor onboard and that diagnosing a virus such as the coronavirus was left to untrained seafarers.
“The MUA is urging the Federal Government and Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie, whose portfolio covers biosecurity, to immediately act and address the deficiencies in a system that allows foreign vessels to trade in and out of Australian ports, with little more than an email as proof that the vessel and its crew comply with biosecurity protocols,” said Paddy Crumlin, MUA national secretary.
Six people have so far been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Australia.
One of the world’s busiest port’s Singapore, which currently has seven cases of people diagnosed with the coronavirus, is screening all crew and passengers arriving at terminals in the country.
MUA’s Crumlin said, “Australian workers are going out onto to these vessels and having direct contact with foreign seafarers prior to them entering the port. Tugboat crews are receiving ships equipment that may have been in contact with infected seafarers. Linesman and other port workers all perform work with the vessel well before biosecurity agents will go up the gangway of a ship, if at all.
“It shouldn’t be left to these workers to provide Australia’s response to an international, viral threat.”