Six crew from a live export ship that was given permission to dock in Fremantle last week have tested positive to the coronavirus.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said on Tuesday afternoon that his immediate reaction had been that the situation was potentially another “cruise ship saga”.
He said the United Arab Emirates ship, the Al Kuwait, left the Middle East on May 7 with 48 crew members onboard. It gained permission to dock at Fremantle on May 22.
Since then, six male crew have tested positive for COVID-19. They have been taken off the ship to quarantine in a Perth hotel.
The remaining 42 crew are still on board.
Mr McGowan said the situation was extremely concerning with multiple government agencies involved. He said he was “disappointed” that the ship was allowed to dock.
“We’re just trying to find out exactly what has gone on. Obviously we’re very concerned and, to a degree, disappointed but we’ll try to find out who knew what and when so that we can learn lessons from this,” he said.
“Clearly, the fact the advice I have at this point in time is the [federal] Department of Agriculture was informed there were people with elevated temperatures, but they didn’t tell the Fremantle Port Authority.
“We will find out exactly when it happened so work out what to do
in the future.”
Mr McGowan said he was advised the Commonwealth had allowed the Al Kuwait had to enter the Port of Fremantle on May 23, after three crew members reported elevated temperatures.
A day earlier, on May 22, the ship “provided an updated report to Australian Border Force which included one crew with a high temperature and three showing similar symptoms in the last 15 days”.
“This was when the final clearance was provided by the
Commonwealth for the ship to berth. At this point, the Fremantle Port Authority was not made aware of the health concerns,” he said.
“This is not good. We want to get to a resolution as soon as possible so that the ship is in a position to leave the port.”
Mr McGowan said the WA police commissioner had contacted the Australian Border Force Commissioner and the Department of Agriculture “to try to get an understanding as to why the ship was allowed to be berthed at our port”.
He said the 56,000 sheep due to be exported on the Al Kuwait were being held in a feedlot. They cannot go back to farms because of biosecurity regulations.
“This is a live situation that we are working on with the federal government and the exporter,” he said.
“I want to stress that we are well-prepared for this situation and have strong processes in place to manage all crew members,” he said.