More than 60 Melbourne stevedores have been stood down after refusing to unload a container vessel that docked before the end of the 14-day quarantine period for the coronavirus.
The Xin Da Lian berthed at the DP World terminal at the Port of Melbourne on Tuesday night, after leaving Shanghai on March 17.
The Maritime Union of Australia said the vessel was in “in breach of the federal government’s 14-day coronavirus quarantine period” after visiting a Taiwanese port on March 19.
Wharfies said shaving off two days to the quarantine period was “a risk to workers and the community”.
The union’s members refused to unload the vessel and were subsequently stood down.
But DP World Australia chief operating officer Andrew Adam said the ship was cleared to berth by Australian Border Force.
“Any crew members aboard a vessel that has been to mainland China, must have been at sea for 14 days before they are allowed to dock in Australia,” he said on Wednesday.
“The union is not allowed to unilaterally declare a vessel unsafe: They are not allowed to create their own set of rules.”
The vessel is believed to be carrying toilet rolls, surgical masks, shoe coverings, chemicals for the manufacture of soap and detergent, surgical gowns, laboratory coats, hair nets, tin food and whitegoods.
Some 22 wharfies were stood down on Tuesday night, followed by another 40 on Wednesday morning, DP World said.
MUA national assistant secretary Warren Smith defended the union’s stance, saying it didn’t want to see a repeat of Sydney’s Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle.
“The largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in Australia – which has already claimed several lives and caused hundreds of illnesses – was the result of inadequate measures put in place for the arrival of ships,” he said.
“What’s the difference with this ship?”
A large number of the coronavirus cases in NSW involves passengers who were on the Ruby Princess and disembarked on March 19.
The union has been demanding improvements to biosecurity measures at Australian ports since January.