Ports of Auckland has closed a hole in the country’s Covid-19 defense that the government left open:
New Zealand’s biggest port has sharply criticised the Government’s lack of COVID-19 rules for international shipping crew, and together with Tauranga Port has introduced its own rules.
Ports of Auckland told customers in an advisory, obtained by Newshub, that recent positive cases represent “significant failings”.
Foreign ships manned by foreign crew are critical to trade, but swapping crews on these vessels represent an obvious risk.
Current rules mean foreign crew can fly into Auckland and travel to a port to board a ship without mandatory testing or any isolation.
“We see crew transfer as a weak point, so we’ve acted immediately to close that,” Matt Ball, General Manager of Public Relations and Communications at Ports of Auckland.
“What we’ve done is introduced a rule that crew can only transfer if they’ve undergone 14 days of managed isolation beforehand.”
The requirement, which includes double tests while in isolation, was implemented after the Auckland marine engineer tested positive after working on the Sofrana Surville. Also on deck that day were eight Filipino seafarers, who’d just flown in and boarded the ship without a test or isolation. . .
In an advisory, the Ports of Auckland told its customers: “We had thought that the New Zealand authorities had a robust process in place for international crew exchanges, but this case has identified some significant failings.”
In the advisory, it states that the New Zealand authorities need to tighten up the crew change process and that this point has been made very clear at the highest levels. . .
The company saw a hole and plugged it, why didn’t the government do it months ago and why isn’t it requiring all other port companies to follow Auckland’s example?
The failure to test high risk workers, including port, airport and quarantine workers was first highlighted by Newshub on August 13 – almost two months after a testing strategy was announced.
On August 17, when questioned about the lack of testing of quarantine workers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials didn’t know testing rates were not up to scratch.
“No one of course said to us at any point, that I recall, that what we asked for was not happening,” Ardern said.
However, newly released documents show Cabinet did know.
An August 7 briefing told Ministers weekly testing of quarantine workers hadn’t started and only 12 of 2,100 port workers had been tested.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister says issues with testing of border staff have now been rectified.
Can we rely on that reassurance? Is every other port taking Auckland’s strict approach?
We’ve managed to stamp out community transmission of Covid-19 at significant financial and social cost.
The only vulnerability is with incoming passengers and workers on planes and ships. The only way to keep the disease from spreading in the community is to ensure it can’t get past the border.
That requires plugging every hole and ensuring they stay plugged not just for New Zealand’s sake but for that of the crew on ships and for the people in the next port the ships will visit.