Eleven crew from a livestock vessel docked in Townsville are claiming asylum after refusing to reboard the ship, while a hunt is underway for a 12th crew member on the run in Queensland.
Australian Border Force officers responding to the report that a crew member of the Polaris 3 had jumped ship are dealing with an escalating situation, The Townsville Bulletin reports.
The 11 crew claiming asylum are believed to be Syrian. The crew member who left the port on Saturday night, breaking quarantine rules, was a Pakistani national.
He had not been tested for COVID-19 before he absconded. The Townsville Bulletin reports the 11 crew seeking refugee status have all tested negative.
Ship had travelled from China
The Polaris 3’s last stop before Townsville was the Chinese port of Huanghua.
It was at sea for 17 days, arriving in Townsville on April 27.
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson said the ABF would “safely detain” the 11 crew members in managed quarantine, and was working with Queensland police to hunt for the one who is unaccounted for.
The missing man was reportedly seen leaving the port in a white van.
A Queensland Health spokesman said the risk to the community was low.
The Polaris 3 is a livestock carrier built in 2008 and is sailing under the flag of Panama.