SHIPPING Australia has sounded the alarm about the Western Australia government’s threat to turn ships with suspected COVID-19 cases away.

In a media statement, the industry association called the threat “dangerous” and said turning ships away risks seafarers becoming sick or even dying.

“It is immoral for the WA government to expose seafarers to sickness and death when it has been repeatedly proven that seaborn COVID can be safely managed,” the statement reads.  

“Governments around Australia have handled several incidents and, throughout the pandemic, Queensland has provided an exemplary model of being able to keep trade moving while simultaneously helping seafarers and protecting Queenslanders.”

Shipping Australia pointed out that if a ship gets turned away and its crew is sick, their ability to sail safely could be compromised and in such circumstances, an incident could occur, risking injury and environmental damage.

The industry association also pointed out that ships carry nearly all Australia’s international trade and a disruption of shipping would lead to disruption of both the WA state economy and the national economy.

Shipping Australia CEO Melwyn Noronha said, “Shipping Australia calls upon the WA government to recognise the vital importance of shipping by adopting a pragmatic risk management approach with the aim of facilitating trade.

“We also call upon the WA government to ensure that sick seafarers have access to appropriate medical care.”

Shipping Australia said it has repeatedly demonstrated to the authorities that the shipping industry is taking a great number of measures to keep crews and shoreside communities safe from COVID.

Shipping Australia continues to work with governments to help seafarers access healthcare, to shield the community from COVID, to protect the environment and to enable trade to flow.