Port Workers Concerned About Covid Cases

Workers at Port of Tauranga are expressing concern for themselves and their whanau following the news of positive Covid-19 cases on board a ship berthed at port.

On Saturday, January 30, the Ministry of Health reported that three of the eight new cases in the Bay of Plenty were on board the Singapore-flagged Maersk Bogor container ship, which had been under quarantine at the Port of Tauranga.

The ship arrived in port on Friday morning with some of the 25-crew experiencing Covid-like symptoms. Testing returned three positive results in the 24-hour period to midnight on Friday night.

The Ministry of Health said that no one was allowed off the ship.

“Testing was carried out following strict infection, prevention and control guidelines,” confirmed a Ministry of Health spokesperson.

“The vessel has been managed by the Port to ensure that the risk from crew has been effectively managed, and the ship was due to leave port on Sunday.”

Port workers are expressing concern about going on board to carry out their work when crew members are positive for Covid-19.

“Some of us were told about this on Friday and told other workers. When the boss was approached on Saturday and asked to clarify the information of the Covid cases, that’s when we all heard about it, that was midday on Saturday,” commented a port worker.

“Not a lot of advice was given in the meeting regarding the positive case on the ship, just that they are isolated, and the rest of the crew will be on the star-board side while the port workers worked on the port side unmasked. In a couple of instances, the port workers had to stop because the ship’s crew were on the wrong side.”

The worker also says the Covid incidents were “talked down” as not being a big deal.

“Last time this happened, they had a meeting where they stated that they have to look after their customers, and one worker said, ‘what about our families?’ My workmate was told if you don’t like it leave and find another job,” said the port worker.

A Port of Tauranga spokesperson said measures were in place to keep Port of Tauranga workers safe while the vessel Maersk Bogor was in port and that workers were expected to go on board to carry out their usual work.

“There is contactless cargo operations going on so that workers are kept completely separate from the ship’s crew,” said the spokesperson.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson says the Maritime Border Order contains standard measures for all vessels arriving to New Zealand to protect those who work on and around these ships, including strict limits on who may board ships which people are isolating on.

“For those who are permitted to board, PPE guidance is provided by Maritime New Zealand, as the regulators for work undertaken on ships in New Zealand,” says a Ministry of Health spokesperson.

“The Maritime Border Order also requires social distancing, and that time spent on board is as limited as possible.”

The Port of Tauranga spokesperson says all port workers are required to be vaccinated for their jobs.

“And they have to receive their booster dose by February 15.”