LINX Cargo Care Group is taking legal action, challenging orders from NT Health that put 13 of its Darwin Port stevedores into 14-day quarantine after working the Tacoma Trader.
Meanwhile, all seafarers on board the vessel have returned negative COVID tests.
Linx Cargo Care Group CEO Anthony Jones told DCN the company is disappointed with the recent event in Darwin.
“Thirteen of our stevedores were placed into quarantine by order of the NT Chief Health Officer despite no breach of mandated COVID-19 PPE protocols having been identified by the relevant department authorities,” Mr Jones said.
“Our stevedores remain in quarantine despite being tested for COVID-19 and returning a negative result. All crew members of the Tacoma Trader, have been tested, returning negative results. We see no reasons for the mandatory quarantine of our employees.”
Mr Jones said Linx is engaging with the NT Department of Health, seeking the immediate release of the stevedores.
“Linx Cargo Care Group is also taking appropriate legal steps to have the order issued by the NT Chief Health Officer reviewed by the local court on urgent application. Our priority is the welfare of our people and getting them back to their families and loved ones as soon as possible,” Mr Jones said.
“LINX Cargo Care Group cares for the health and wellbeing of our people and takes their safety very seriously. This strong approach has been even more prominent during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic as we have ensured our people’s safety while they’ve delivered essential services for our customers around Australia and New Zealand.”
Maritime Union of Australia assistant national secretary Adrian Evans said the crew’s test results showed the detention of wharfies by NT Health had been a “massive overreaction”.
“The crew of the vessel have finally been tested for COVID nearly a week after arriving in Darwin, with that only happening because of the insistence of the vessel operator that they be allowed to arrange independent testing of their workers,” he said.
“These tests confirm that there is no one on the vessel infected with COVID, there is no risk of transmission from that vessel to Australian waterfront workers, and there was never a biosecurity breach that put the territory community at risk.”
Mr Evans said the union would be giving evidence in the NT Local Court tomorrow in support of the legal application from Linx, seeking the immediate release of the detained workers.
“NT Health locked 13 people up without due process, for reasons they still can’t explain, and tomorrow’s hearing will seek to overturn that decision and allow these workers to return home to their families,” he said.
“We believe there has been a significant bureaucratic bungle, with our members left to pay the price as NT Health attempts to save face despite mounting evidence that there was no biosecurity breach.”
Mr Evans said the result of this situation is that port operations have ground to a halt, the Tacoma Trader hasn’t been unloaded and there is uncertainty about how goods can be moved through the Port of Darwin going forward.
“The NT government needs to step in and clean up this mess before the actions of NT Health cause further significant economic damage to the territory,” he said.
According to the MUA, the matter is due to be heard on Friday at 1000 at the Norther Territory Local Court in Darwin.
An NT Health spokesperson has previously told DCN ABF personnel witnessed the port workers not wearing full PPE upon entering the vessel and reported this to health authorities and police.
The spokesperson said PPE is required in such situations because of the risk of transmission of the virus from surfaces. They said port workers did not come into direct contact with crew members.