Truck Drivers Need To Be In Line For Vaccine

Thursday, 4 March 2021, 8:55 am
Press Release: Road Transport Forum

To ensure continuity in the supply chain, the road freight industry needs to know when truck drivers will receive the COVID-19 vaccine, says Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett.

Leggett wrote to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins in January, to enquire about COVID-19 vaccination prioritisation that Government will be using to determine workers in essential industries.

“The trucking industry is keen to understand when its frontline workers (mainly drivers) might be in line for a vaccination and whether they will be given priority over the general population, given their importance in keeping the supply chain running,” Leggett says.

“We see increasing urgency in getting truck drivers vaccinated when you note what is happening in Auckland, our largest city and home to our major port. The yo-yoing lockdowns have significant impacts on moving freight and COVID outbreaks in Auckland put a large workforce at risk.

“Ports of Auckland and other port workers are being vaccinated and it is only a matter of time before high-risk businesses start demanding any workers to their sites also be vaccinated.

“The RTF has asked the Minister to consider the driver workforce as a priority due to the work they undertake.

“Transport operators are keen to mitigate risk and exposure of their employees to COVID-19 as soon as possible and some clarity on vaccination prioritisation would be useful so they can plan.

“We have also asked for legal clarification around employers being able to require their staff to be vaccinated.

“This could emerge as an issue in New Zealand and we think it is especially relevant for both employers and employees in critical industries to understand where the law sits on this point.

“We recognise that the Government will not achieve a 100% vaccination rate, but it will be important to have frontline and critical staff vaccinated and we would like to be able to inform transport operators of their responsibilities and rights around employee vaccination requirements as soon as possible,” Leggett says.

Will the pandemic open new doors?


in International Shipping News 15/02/2021

If our industry can adapt and innovate like we have done throughout COVID-19, imagine what we can do to accelerate decarbonisation efforts if we apply the right thinking and the right resources, says David Loosley, BIMCO Secretary General & CEO.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down offices, ports, schools, and society. As the second wave hits many parts of the world, it may be tempting for governments and corporates to turn focus inwards, and deal with national or corporate matters, as opposed to fixing those on the horizon and common goals.

In our own industry, we need to remind ourselves daily that our focus must remain firmly on the long-term goal of decarbonisation, while continuously fight for the urgent issues such as the rights of crew to perform crew changes, despite the pandemic and the challenges it brings.

As closed as the world currently seems, I, in my capacity as Secretary General & CEO of BIMCO, continue to see optimism, creativity and positivity from industry players, members and leaders in shipping. What I find encouraging are testimonies from company leaders about the readiness of their organisations to adapt, change and innovate at incredibly short notice when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Companies and staff worldwide took to working from home, from one day to the next, finding new digital solutions and rethinking how to not only go about, but also improve, functions and businesses. I find this both fascinating and reassuring. If our industry can adapt and innovate to this extent, this fast, imagine what we can do to accelerate decarbonisation efforts if we apply the right thinking and the right resources to the task.

Our industry urgently needs viable and commercially available technology solutions to reduce carbon emissions, and BIMCO advocates for an International Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) to drive innovation in the technology we need to cut carbon emissions by 50% in 2050, and ultimately eliminate those emissions.

For innovative solutions to succeed however, the right policy framework is needed too. BIMCO continues to call for global action on reducing CO2 emissions, as opposed to national or regional schemes. Therefore, we have voiced concern over the EU proposed implementation of a regional Emissions Trading System (ETS), as we fear the inclusion of shipping in the EU ETS will inhibit global action on reducing CO2 emissions. We fear that shipping risks getting hit by multiple emission trading systems; once the scalable technology is available, this will make any global MBM (Market Based Measure) much more difficult to achieve.

We therefore urge the EU to work with the international community at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on this critical activity to ensure that the industry continues to operate on a level playing field.

If the shipping industry operates on a level playing field globally, companies can focus on all the invaluable lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis in a bid to fuel innovation and speed up decarbonisation efforts.

David Loosley, Secretary General & CEO of BIMCO.

Source: Lloyd’s Register

Ports Of Auckland Management COVID-19 Story “embarrassing”

The Maritime Union says claims by Ports of Auckland that Government quarantine regulations are to blame for their failures are embarrassing and should be withdrawn.

A POAL spokesperson complained on Mike Hosking’s Breakfast Radio show yesterday about a “maze like process” to import crane operators.

The spokesperson said “We have to fill out heaps of forms and wait weeks, and it would be great if someone could help speed up everything.”

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the problem is POAL management.

He says the shortage of crane operators in Auckland came about because the port company has not trained enough staff over the last couple of years and has relied on workers doing excessive hours.

“If they had maintained their workforce, they wouldn’t have a problem. No other Port is in this ridiculous situation they have got Auckland into.

The Union believes there could be up to 19 current employees at the Ports of Auckland who have previously driven the container cranes at the Ports of Auckland who are currently carrying supervisory roles within the company who could be redeployed into the role.

Mr Harrison says he believes there were options to transfer workers in from other ports temporarily, and the Union had previously assisted with this process in the past.

He says past employees of the Ports of Auckland are being declined employment as stevedores even though they operated machinery still in use (Editor’s note: see below for company email to experienced job applicant.)

It was disturbing the Port Company seemed to be bringing into question the strict quarantine procedures that were keeping New Zealanders safe as COVID-19 ravaged the rest of the world, he says.

The port management is focused on an automation process that had dragged on for years and is still not working, he says.

“Port management need to be honest with New Zealand about whether they have exhausted all options available to the company within New Zealand.”

‘Warning lights’: Exporters eye on Covid 19 global shipping congestion as outlook dims

All eyes now on Covid-19 shipping disruption impact on New Zealand's exports. Photo / File
All eyes now on Covid-19 shipping disruption impact on New Zealand’s exports. Photo / File

By: Andrea Fox

Herald business writerandrea.fox@nzme.co.nz

“Philosophical” may be the best way to sum up how New Zealand’s biggest export sectors are viewing warnings Covid-19 global shipping disruption will worsen, with Auckland port’s congestion just one of several flashpoints around the world.

Maersk, the world’s biggest container line, has told the Herald import supply chain congestion in the upper North Island is likely to worsen and not ease until the second quarter of next year, and that 10-day ship waits for unloading at Auckland will also make the coming export season “challenging” due to container exchange logistics.

Dairy sector leader Fonterra, the world’s sixth-biggest dairy company by revenue and New Zealand’s biggest company, along with the $9 billion meat export sector and horticulture market sweetheart Zespri, all say they’re watching the situation closely but are prepared.

But one primary industry exporter isn’t so sanguine.

Disruption at ports is “significant” and supply chain issues, now manifesting, were always one of the biggest risks importers and exporters faced from Covid-19, said the commentator, who declined to be named.

The challenges were not fully understood by the public or the Government and would affect not only import product availability, but New Zealand’s export-led recovery.

“It’s a global phenomenon so there’s not much we can do but hang on for the bumpy ride.”

Maersk’s caution comes as shipping industry information forwarded to the Herald from Ports of Auckland in defence of criticism of its congestion issue advises of new Covid-related delays unloading reefer (refrigerated) container ships at major China port Xingang, and Australian ports precincts – mainly Sydney – gridlocked by heavy cargo volumes as the effect of previous industrial action cascades.

Auckland is the country’s main import gateway. This week, with the Christmas sales season closing in, ships were waiting 10 days to be unloaded. Shipping lines have imposed congestion surcharges of up to US$500 ($713.96) per container on importers.

Imports value in the year to end October was $58b, down 10 per cent on the previous period, according to government figures.

Port of Tauranga is the main marine exit for New Zealand’s exports, valued at $60b in the year to October, up 1.2 per cent. Container ships avoiding Auckland have been offloading big volumes of cargo there just as the main export season gets under way.

The dairy export season has started and will continue into January. Still to come are frozen meat exports, fruit, vegetables and, from March, kiwifruit.

A Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said “no alarm bells” about the export season outlook had been sounding, though there were “warning lights”.

“It’s not just an imports issue. It’s everyone trying to avoid Auckland.”

Exporters who usually used Auckland port were turning to Tauranga, dropping containers at Port of Tauranga’s inland South Auckland port Metroport, which was full.

KiwiRail was putting on more trains south from Metroport to Tauranga from next week, she said.

Asked for Tauranga port’s view on the forecast challenge to exporting, she said: “It’s very difficult to forecast anything, there are so many unknowns.”

Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, hopes its shipping contracts will avoid Covid fallout. Photo / File
Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, hopes its shipping contracts will avoid Covid fallout. Photo / File

Fonterra global supply chain director Gordon Carlyle said shipping containers had been in short supply but the farmer-owned company had been able to source what it needed to support exports.

“What we’re seeing is the global manufacturing industry having to work overtime with stronger-than-expected consumer demand. As a result, the freight industry is also working hard to keep up and port strikes in Australia, coupled with local supply chain issues related to constraints at the Port of Auckland, have exacerbated matters.”

Fonterra’s partnership with Maersk and Kotahi, New Zealand’s largest supply chain collaboration, founded by Fonterra and meat company Silver Fern Farms in 2011, had proven “hugely valuable” in managing the shipping disruption, he said.

Fonterra is the world’s biggest exporter of dairy product.

Zespri, with revenue of $3 billion in 2019-2020, said it would continue to use a mix of shipping types next year while working with long-term shipping and port partners. Most kiwifruit is exported through Tauranga port with some exiting via Northport in Northland.

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri hopes to pull off another Covid shipping disruption go-around next year. Photo / File
Kiwifruit exporter Zespri hopes to pull off another Covid shipping disruption go-around next year. Photo / File

Chief global supply officer Alastair Hulbert said the 2020 season shipping programme had been completed successfully through a mix of container and reefer vessels.

“…We are well placed to commence shipping our fruit to markets next March and to manage any impacts should they arise.”

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said container supply had been an issue for the sector in recent years “however as New Zealand’s second-largest goods exporter we have the experience and expertise to manage the situation”.

“Although we anticipate the situation worsening next year, the agility and resilience our companies have shown throughout the Covid-19 crisis means we are well-placed to mitigate any risks to our supply chains.

“We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure we are prepared in the event of any deterioration.”

Product values of NZ exports in 2019:

• Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.7 billion (27.9% of total exports)
• Meat: US$5.3 billion (13.9%)
• Wood: $3.3 billion (8.7%)
• Fruits, nuts: $2.2 billion (5.9%)
• Cereal/milk preparations: $1.5 billion (3.9%)
• Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (3.7%)
• Fish: $1.2 billion (3.2%)
• Machinery including computers: $1 billion (2.6%)
• Miscellaneous food preparations: $886.9 million (2.3%)
• Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $815.5 million (2.1%)
• New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for about three-quarters (74.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

New Zealand urgently needs to focus on supply chain

The global effects of Covid-19 are putting real pressure on the New Zealand supply chain, economist Cameron Bagrie told the road freight transport industry this week.

Covid-19 meant no industry conference this year, so the Road Transport Forum invited Cameron to give us one of his popular industry updates via Zoom.

There was good news and bad news, and Cameron is pretty good at looking at how you can turn the bad news into good news. But there is no escaping there is pain ahead as we watch parts of Europe and the UK shut down again for a second autumn/winter wave of Covid.

What Cameron told us is what we are hearing across the board, and we are trying to get Government to listen. If for example, there is a Covid-19 vaccine and New Zealand is able to secure some, the supply chain is not in place to get it here and distribute it.

While exports are still working for New Zealand, imports are going down and sourcing goods is becoming a problem.

Cameron says people are talking about demand when they should be talking about supply – Covid is not supply friendly and “the Reserve Bank can’t fix supply chains”.

New Zealand is a small market to service and so is never going to be at the top of the queue. And while we can do a lot for ourselves, we are reliant on all manner of goods coming into the country to let us do that. When securing essential items becomes impossible, what’s the plan?

Some urgent thinking needs to go into managing this growing and critical risk and looking at how New Zealand can boost capability locally and fast.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to goods only. Migration numbers have gone from booming to collapse which creates another point of vulnerability for New Zealand. There have been years of underinvestment in key skills and capability because we could always import them from overseas, Cameron says. But to get the economy moving in areas such as infrastructure, or to manufacture locally what we can no longer source from off shore, we are woefully short of expertise.

In the spirit of never letting a good disaster go to waste, Covid-19 presents opportunities for some.

“Think small to stand tall,” Cameron says. While the macro-economy is beyond the control of individual businesses, focus with a ruthless obsession on all the little business levers. Get up every day and make a small improvement and over a couple of months, the dial will start to move in the right direction.

While human instinct may be to hunker down in bad economic times, the people being rewarded in the Covid world are those taking risks and there is a growing wedge between firms that are adaptive and those that are not.

Covid-19 is a bit of a lightning rod for rapid changes that were already occurring. People working from home, for example, was starting to happen but became the only option during lockdown. The changes that have come with that means distribution moving from city centres to suburban areas as people start to buy in the suburbs where they are working, rather than the central business district where their company may have been located.

There is also pressure in an economic downturn to cut prices but if items are in short supply, or can’t be sourced, no sensible business is going to do that. The reverse is more likely.

Cameron wants to see both the Government and businesses take more risks and embrace technology and change. He would prefer the Government out there spending on critical infrastructure and the Reserve Bank doing a lot less. He is critical of the Reserve Bank driving down interest rates and says all this will do is widen the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in our society by making housing affordability worse.

He had some strong advice for the RTF too and that was to keep making some noise on the government front as there is not enough representation for small and medium sized businesses.

“You are going to be getting into a bit of a dog fight, but it will be needed,” he said.

As we wait for the new Government to be formed, we are certainly gearing up to represent our essential part of the supply chain that is going to keep New Zealand moving in any kind of Covid-19 response and recovery.

We recorded Cameron Bagrie’s presentation and as this is just a snapshot, it is well worth viewing here.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Port of Tauranga says no cruise ships for two years will cost economy $100m

Port of Tauranga doesn’t expect cruise ships to visit for the next two summers.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFFPort of Tauranga doesn’t expect cruise ships to visit for the next two summers.

Port of Tauranga is not expecting any cruise ship visits for the next two summers, leaving a $100 million hole in the regional economy.

The cruise season traditionally runs from October to April, but border closures in March because of to Covid-19 have cancelled ship visits indefinitely.

“Despite the premature and sudden end to the summer cruise ship season due to Covid-19, we still hosted a total of 106 passenger vessels, just 10 fewer than last season,” chief executive Mark Cairns told the port company’s annual meeting on Friday.

“However, we are not budgeting for any cruise ship visits this summer or even the following. Whilst this doesn’t represent a significant amount of marine revenue for the port, it is around $100m of cash receipts that will not be going into the regional economy.”

Tauranga is New Zealand’s biggest shipping hub, moving goods to and from other ports around the country, and its wider business has been hurt by a slowdown in shipping because of Covid-19. Profit dropped 10 per cent last year, after cracking $100m the previous year, as the pandemic curtailed ship visits and reduced volumes moving through the port.

“It would certainly be an understatement to describe 2020 as a tumultuous year,” Cairns said.PauseMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 3:08Loaded: 15.97% FullscreenJASON DORDAY/STUFFLabour’s finance spokesman Grant Robertson talks to business owners at an Auckland Business Chamber event.

Despite the “Herculean efforts” of the company’s staff who continued as essential workers during lockdown and even set a new record for moving containers on a single vessel, Covid-19 had inevitably impacted the port’s cargo volumes and financial results last year, he said.

“We are confident of growth over the long-term at the port, and our ability to retain and grow market share,” he said.

“The outlook for the 2021 financial year has, however, presented a few short-term headwinds. Covid makes it extremely difficult to forecast future trade flows.”

In the first quarter of the new financial year, from July 1 to September 30, the port made an after-tax profit of $21.5m, little changed from $21.7m last year, Cairns said.

Based on the first-quarter performance, Cairns said he expected full-year profit of between $86m and $93m. That compares with a $90m profit last year.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns presided over his last annual meeting ahead of his retirement.
IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFFPort of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns presided over his last annual meeting ahead of his retirement.

“Port of Tauranga is a long-run infrastructure company and we will continue to pursue capacity expansion and greater efficiencies, to avoid the bottlenecks and congestion currently being experienced in the Upper North Island supply chain,” he said.

“We believe we are well-placed to weather whatever the Covid-19 storm throws at us next.”

Cairns was presiding over his last annual meeting of the company, having previously announced his intention to retire at the end of this financial year, after 15 years with the port.

In the first quarter, the port handled nearly 6.4 million tonnes of cargo, a 5 per cent drop from last year, while containerised cargo fell 8 per cent.

Imports were the same as the first quarter last year, but exports fell 8 per cent.

Log exports were performing in line with forecasts of 6.2 million tonnes for the full year, but remain vulnerable to variable international demand, he said.

Dairy product exports dropped about 12 per cent from last year, which Cairns attributed to seasonal variations. Kiwifruit exports increased 9 per cent.

Port of Tauranga shares fell 1.5 per cent on Friday to $7.24, and have dropped 7.4 per cent this year.

Coronavirus: Ports ‘won’t change position’ on foreign crew COVID-19 rules, despite Health Minister’s request

The Health Minister has moved to plug a gap in New Zealand’s COVID-19 response system, with all foreign ship crew coming in or out the country will now face mandatory testing. 

However, the country’s two biggest ports, Auckland and Tauranga, already have that and more – making the Minister’s announcement largely redundant. 

Hundreds of foreign seafarers have flown into New Zealand and boarded ships without being tested – but that will no longer be allowed. 

“Today, I’m announcing that we will be introducing mandatory testing for all workers that will be transferring onto or off a ship through New Zealand,” Chris Hipkins said at a press conference on Friday.

Foreign crews transfers – or crew swaps – happen so seafarers, who’ve made the often weeks-long journey to New Zealand on a ship, can then fly out and return to their homes overseas. 

The rule change follows a border failure which saw an Auckland engineer catch COVID-19. 

The most likely source was untested foreign crew, who’d flown into Auckland and boarded the bulk carrier, Sofrana Surville, in Taranaki – the same ship the engineer was working on. 

But the Minister’s announcement will actually have little effect, as the country’s two biggest ports have already said that it will be mandatory for all foreign crew to undergo 14 days in isolation and produce double negative tests before they board any ship. 

“We would prefer that the ports didn’t go and set up their own arrangements and set their own rules,” Hipkins said.

But those arrangements are already in place. 

“We’re not going to change our position on this,” Matt Ball, Ports of Auckland spokesperson, told Newshub. “We think it’s really important to protect our staff.”

The Minister doesn’t want foreign crew to isolate for 14 days, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt cargo ship operations.

“If we said that every ship coming into New Zealand had to float offshore for 14 days, they simply wouldn’t come,” Hipkins explained.

But Ball says that’s simply not the case, and not how it works. He says all it means is that shipping agents need to plan to get crew in two weeks earlier. 

Hipkins said the measure the Ports of Auckland have put in place won’t really increase protection at all – but again, the company disagrees.

“All we’ve done is basically introduce for transferring crew the same measures that anyone coming into New Zealand has to go through [14 days in managed isolation],” Ball says.

“So it must be safe, because the Government’s approved it.”

Ball says it’s about providing the best possible layers of protection for their staff – but also for staff at ports in the Pacific and beyond. 

Covid 19 coronavirus: International crews arriving at Auckland and Tauranga ports now face mandatory isolation

International crews arriving at the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga must now complete 14 days in managed isolation. Photo / File
International crews arriving at the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga must now complete 14 days in managed isolation. Photo / File

NZ Herald – By: Courtney Winter

Two of the country’s biggest ports are now requiring all international crews to do 14 days in managed isolation – and they want other ports to follow suit.

The ports of Auckland and Tauranga made the move despite Health Minister Chris Hipkins saying today that this would mean a number of ships wouldn’t come to New Zealand.

Hipkins told RNZ that every crewmember entering the country could soon be required to be tested for Covid 19 but he’s yet to decide whether to put all shipping crews through managed isolation.

The current situation is that crew who are flown into New Zealand are taken straight to the port to join their vessel if it is leaving port that day, after being collected by a vehicle with a driver in PPE gear.

Ports of Auckland’s general communications manager Matt Ball said the 14-day managed isolation requirement was introduced last week, after it became clear the likely source of the current port worker cluster was eight Philippine seamen who went through the port untested.

Ball said the port has had a positive response from its shipping companies regarding the requirement.

He said it gave crews and shipping companies reassurance there were no infected people on board.

A Port of Tauranga spokesperson said the company sent an advisory notice to shipping agents last night requiring international crew members joining a vessel in Tauranga to complete 14 days in managed isolation and test negative for Covid-19.

The port understood this created logistical challenges for its shipping line customers, the notice said.

“However, we cannot risk having to close the port due to operational staff being in quarantine.”

All international crews arriving in the Port of Tauranga now face a mandatory two-week quarantine. Photo / File
All international crews arriving in the Port of Tauranga now face a mandatory two-week quarantine. Photo / File

The Ministry of Health didn’t answer specific questions. However, in a statement it said it regularly reviewed the Covid-19 strategy to ensure that it remained fit for purpose for its elimination strategy – this included reviewing what the testing programme for port workers and crew members looked like.

Health officials were working closely with border agencies on how to limit the risk of Covid-19, it said.

Immigration New Zealand said between 10 August and 26 October, 466 individuals were approved a critical purpose visa for the purposes of travelling to New Zealand as ‘replacement cargo ship crew’. It said 324 of those individuals have arrived in New Zealand and 142 were yet to arrive.

Today marked six straight days of no Covid cases in the community, but health authorities are still questioning how the virus once again slipped through New Zealand’s borders.

It’s the longest run of no new cases in the community since the marine engineer tested positive for the virus on October 16.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield yesterday announced all close and casual contacts of the engineer had tested negative for the virus.

Overall there had been nearly 40,000 tests since the case was announced.

This was despite two of the man’s colleagues, who also boarded the foreign vessel the Sofrana Surville, testing positive and visiting a range of Auckland venues including Malt Bar in Greenhithe on the Friday evening, along with a gym, bank and several stores.

While the potential for an outbreak would remain until two full incubation cycles after October 16 – 28 days – so far it appears the city may have dodged a bullet that could have potentially plunged it back into lockdown.

Infectious diseases expert Professor David Murdoch said the main takeaway from the rapid containment of the cluster was that the system is working as intended.

“It has been picked up quickly, we’ve managed to find the source – unlike the previous outbreak, there’s been rigorous contact tracing and genome sequencing.”

The fact an infected person had been in a crowded bar on a Friday evening, what could have been a “super spreader” event, and there had so far been no repercussions was not necessarily just luck, Murdoch said.

“Not knowing the exact details, but it appears they’d only been exposed that morning, so that is fairly early on and might be the reason they were not infectious.”

Just two new cases of Covid-19 were announced today, both caught at the border.

Covid-19 rules for ship crew: ‘It’s worse than being in prison’

A ship’s captain is describing the way crew are being treated during Covid-19 as inhumane and like being in prison.Wayne Turner is the Master of Capitaine Tasman

Captain Wayne Turner on board Capitaine Tasman. Photo: Supplied

Crews on ships coming into New Zealand ports are not allowed ashore and must wear PPE gear every time they are on deck.

This also applies to New Zealand crew.

Wayne Turner is the master of Capitaine Tasman, a container ship that sails between Mount Maunganui, Auckland, Noumea, Suva and Lautoka – making a 17-day round trip.

New Zealand, Noumea and Fiji are all countries without community transmission of the virus.

Turner said effectively the crew were in constant isolation.

“You’ve got people that are basically in prison. They can’t depart the vessel, they can’t go for a walk, get fresh air, they can’t get off the vessel.

“It needs to be managed so that people can have those basic human rights, provided that [they] take appropriate action, they need to be able to get off the vessel, stretch their legs, [get] fresh air, change of scene.

“Just the normal stuff you need for psychological wellbeing, it is worse than being in prison,” he said.

Crew were also not allowed ashore in Fiji or Noumea, so they were trapped on board, Turner said.

“We don’t get any leave at all and no visits.

“It is pretty inhumane what seafarers are having to face and for no real reason. It’s a lack of understanding on the part of the powers-that-be as to the real risks that exist, which are negligible, if at all.”

Turner said while crew must wear PPE gear at all times while on the deck in port and can be fined if they do not, stevedores coming on board to load or discharge cargo, do not have to.

“If I go on deck while in port in New Zealand, if Customs see me [not wearing PPE gear] I can be liable for a fine of up to $2000.”

He said all of the 18 crew, including himself, have their temperatures taken twice a day and it is logged.

“We have no contact with the external world effectively.”

Turner said as a New Zealander he had been Covid tested and isolated for the past two months. He was not able to leave the ship nor visit his Mount Maunganui home, family or friends and they could not visit him.

“Home is basically 2-3 kilometres away.”

‘The government is just not interested’

Some other crew members have not been ashore since March.

“It’s pretty inhumane to have been on board from March without having been able to step off the vessel at any stage.”

He said the most crew could do was walk around the deck while at sea and weather allowing, which was frustrating for them.

Turner is concerned about the mental health of his crew and the many others at sea.

“The kind of people that are going to survive this kind of role are well used to that, but not to this degree and I suppose that is the part that is unfair and unreasonable that we are used to being away from our families for months, but you do have the social aspects of being onboard which is walks ashore and time ashore in various ports and all of that, but not having that, it is not good for you.”

When he finally comes to sign-off the ship Turner will need to go into mandatory 14-day isolation, minus the four days at sea sailing from Lautoka, after having effectively been isolated for four months.

Turner said the plight of seafarers during Covid-19 has been ignored by the government mainly because of the small number of people and for the most part foreigners.

“The government is just not interested.”

He is also a solo yachtie and is worried about hundreds of yachts that have been refused permission to sail to New Zealand to avoid the upcoming tropical cyclone season in the Pacific.

“They are as isolated from Covid as we are and they are in areas with no Covid and yet they to cannot come down to New Zealand unless you are on a luxury yacht and you can go alongside at Queens Wharf in Auckland, which is happening currently and so it is one rule for one and a completely different rule for others,” he said.

A spokesperson for Customs says while it enforces Covid-19 restrictions on seafarers, it has no control over changing the rules, which have been set by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health said due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic New Zealand’s maritime border requires the testing, isolation and quarantining of all ship’s crew on arrival into the country.

These requirements for cargo and shipping vessels are similar to many other parts of the world and the master of any ship intending to arrive in New Zealand should, before the ship arrives in New Zealand, take reasonable steps to ensure that every person on board the ship is aware of the isolation or quarantine requirements.

Due to these current Maritime Border requirements which much of the world is operating under, the Ministry of Health encourages shipping companies to review their schedules – which are often on high rotation from port to port – to allow sufficient time for crew to have time on shore once they have achieved a negative result.

Under normal circumstances, a person who arrives in New Zealand on board a ship must remain in isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days on board the ship on which they arrived in New Zealand but this includes time at sea and many cargo ships arriving into New Zealand are long-haul and therefore crew would not be required to sit at port for 14 days.

It said all crew members do need to meet the low risk indicators, including a negative test, before disembarking.

In response to the Ministry of Health, Captain Turner said the guidelines assume vessels are at sea for 14-days or more to achieve isolation. Many ships are on rotations that do not have 14-days between international ports.

Capitaine Tasman calls at Noumea, Suva, Lautoka, Tauranga and Auckland. There are no community Covid cases in New Caledonia or Fiji.

He said no crew member on Capitaine Tasman has had shore leave since March and maximum time at sea is four days so they cannot meet isolation requirements.

Captain Turner said no Covid testing is available to crew members in port except for those at the end of their contract and going home. Crew members wanting to go ashore require 14-days isolation, a Covid test and written MoH approval.

”Maximum time in port is two days, so meeting the requirements is not possible.”

”The Vessel’s crew do not go ashore at any port, so difficult to see how infection can occur,” he said.

Mandatory Covid-19 testing of all ports staff reined in to only ‘high risk’ contacts

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The government has backtracked on plans to urgently test every single person who had come into the Ports of Auckland for Covid-19.

Last week the Ministry of Health issued a mandatory testing order for all workers at the Auckland and Tauranga ports as part of its border blitz.

It had hoped to get all of those workers tested by midnight last night, but only managed to get about a fraction swabbed – 3485 workers as at 1pm today.

The previous order had covered anyone who had come into contact with the port since 21 July – that was more than 5000 people from 800 organisations at the Ports of Auckland alone.

The current order has been narrowed to focus on higher risk workers, such as those dealing directly with ships and ship workers, and anyone with symptoms to be tested.

The Road Transport Forum had opposed the testing of truck drivers saying they came into contact with hardly anyone at the borders, and Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball agreed that it made sense to reign in the testing.

“The scale of the previous order was huge and probably not necessary, given the low and pretty much zero risk for people like truck drivers.”

He said the ministry had now come to grips with how the supply chain at the ports worked and how many people actually interacted with the ports.

Ball said the ports had been asking for testing since April and the government had been slow to respond.

Ongoing testing will now continue at the Ports of Auckland and the Tauranga Port, and Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was also being rolled out at other ports around the country.

The government still doesn’t know what the source of the latest Covid cluster in Auckland is.

The first case is believed to be a worker at the Americold facility who displayed symptoms on 31 July.

Testing at the borders will continue as health authorities work to figure out any gaps.

Hipkins said he would be issuing two public health orders by the end of the week – one formalising the testing regime for air crew and the other formalising routine testing moving forward.