Health and safety

Australian union warns government failing to implement adequate coronavirus checks

17 February 2020

Australia is failing to implement adequate checks for coronavirus infections on vessels arriving at Australian ports, Maritime Union of Australia has warned.

Foreign vessels can trade in and out of Australian ports with little more than an email as proof the vessel and its crew comply with biosecurity protocols, MUA said.

Merchant vessels are required to self-declare any quarantine or biosecurity threats before arrival into Australia. They are unlikely to have a doctor onboard and the accurate diagnosis of a virus like the coronavirus could be left to untrained seafarers.

'Australian workers are going out onto to these vessels, tugboat crews are receiving ships' equipment that may have been in contact with infected seafarers,' MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

'Linesman and other port workers all perform work with the vessel well before biosecurity agents 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.

'We need to know what provisions are in place for the proper treatment of infected foreign seafarers, what can maritime and port workers do to protect themselves against infection and who is verifying that this is being done,' Crumlin said.