MUA calls for crew change on Oldendorff’s COVID-19 hit bulker amid fears of Ruby Princess scenario

The crew of Oldendorff’s bulker, currently anchored in Port Hedland, Australia after experiencing a coronavirus outbreak on board, should be taken ashore and replaced with a new crew from Western Australia, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) insists.

To remind, German shipowner Oldendorff Carriers informed earlier this week that 17 crew members on board the Patricia Oldendorff tested positive for the virus.

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The vessel’s crew had been changed in the Philippines on September 5, 2020. However, the company insists all crew members were quarantined and tested for the virus before joining the ship.

The vessel arrived off Port Hedland on September 16 and has been at anchor since. There were 22 crew members aboard the vessel.

The Government of Western Australia’s Department of Health said that 12 crew members, including two positive ones, had been transferred to hotel accommodation.

“These crew do not currently need medical treatment, but should it be required, every precaution will be in place to protect healthcare workers and members of the public,” the health department said.

The vessel operator, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), and Pilbara Ports Authority are said to be working on ensuring the vessel is safe and that a replacement of crew is on standby – if required.

Daily cleaning of the vessel has also commenced, with a deep clean to be conducted prior to any new crew boarding the vessel.

According to MUA, there are 9 international seafarers on board the bulker, who are receiving supplies from port service providers, making them susceptible to getting infected as well.

“If not managed properly, this crisis could develop into Western Australia’s Ruby Princess. The Maritime Union of Australia calls on the McGowan government to act swiftly to reduce any further risk to our community and provide these seafarers with the medical assistance they require,” MUA pointed out.

To remind, after docking and disembarking in Sydney in March 2020 with 2,647 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members on board, Ruby Princess is believed to have become Australia’s biggest source of COVID-19.

The passengers were allowed to disembark without being tested despite suspected cases on board.

Following an inquiry into the case, state officials in Australia admitted failures in handling the massive outbreak, which is linked to 900 infections and 28 deaths.

Christy Cain, the Secretary of the West Coast Branch of MUA said a crew replacement would be an easy fix that would protect the people of Western Australia, the economy, and the crew of the Patricia Oldendorff.

As informed, Western Australia currently has 100 unemployed seafarers available for immediate deployment.

“The simple solution is to move the infected crew into quarantine, provide them with the necessary medical care, carry out a full clean and crew the vessel with local seafarers so we can immediately continue the export of Western Australia’s resources, an industry so critical to our nation’s economy during these troubling times,” Cain said.

The health department reassured the public that any transfers would be undertaken with the safety of the maritime workers, emergency services and transport staff, hotel staff, and the local community.

“Health has experience managing outbreaks on vessels and will put every precaution in place to ensure the ongoing safety of the local community,” the department pointed out.

A spokesperson from Oldenorff Carriers confirmed to Offshore Energy-Green Marine that nine people remain on the Patricia Oldendorff as part of the essential crew and seven of them have tested positive, with no or minor symptoms.

The company is not aware of any plans to put an Australian crew aboard the ship.