WATERFRONT workers fear they are being put at risk from container ships from China, according to the Maritime Union.

The MUA has issued a statement saying workers at Webb Dock were alarmed after the arrival of the Hong Kong-flagged Cosco Thailand box ship.

However, Cosco issued a statement saying its ships had met the 14-day requirements and its crews were in good health.

According to the MUA, a union inspector was initially told it had sailed from another Australian port, but it was subsequently discovered the vessel had actually departed Ningbo in mainland China.

Workers in Darwin previously sought a delay to the planned docking of the Singapore-flagged Kota Nebula, according to the union, with the vessel having departed a port in mainland China on February 3.


The MUA claimed the Cosco Thailand was allowed to dock less than 14-days after departing China.

The MUA said both incidents highlighted the failure of the Australian government’s self-reporting system.

“The reason for the 14-day travel ban is that the incubation period for the coronavirus is two weeks, so it is completely possible that crew members from these vessels may be infected but not yet show symptoms,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

But a spokesperson for Cosco said the situation had been misrepresented.

“The COSCO Thailand left Ningbo on January 28 and arrived in Melbourne on February 12, meeting the requirements of the 14-day travel ban,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition, the crew members currently on board are in good health.”

A spokesperson for Victoria International Container Terminal (based at Webb Dock) said they took the health and safety of workers “very seriously”.

“The recent global health crisis only highlights the importance of rigorous biosecurity and health measures to ensure not only VICT employees are safe, but all Australians,” the spokesperson said.

“We are working closely with all the shipping lines that are coming to VICT and are acting in accordance with the Australian Department of Health’s recommendation period of 14 days. By this time, if the crew are not showing any sign or symptoms, it’s business as usual, as directed by the department.

“The vessel in question (Cosco Thailand) was outside the window, and cleared of any threat by the Department of Health.”