SEVEN cases of COVID-19 among crew of the iron ore bulker Vega Dream highlight the risk of an outbreak spreading into the community, MUA national president and WA branch state secretary Chris Cain.

The MUA believes there is a need for tougher measures to protect the people of WA.

“When the crew were found to be infected with COVID19, the Vega Dream was alongside in G Berth on Finucane Island, right in the heart of the Port of Port Hedland,” Mr Cain said.

“The McGowan government is quick to remind us of the economic pressure preventing the implementation of a mandatory 14-day isolation for vessels arriving from Coronavirus hotspots.

“What the government doesn’t tell you is that this same economic pressure when placed directly on the Master of a vessel prevents transparent reporting of symptomatic crew members.”

Mr Cain said the McGowan government expected a seafarer “who stands to lose his job” over reporting a suspected case of COVID to report it and cause substantial delays to a vessel and significant economic loss to the shipowner.

“While the vessel was alongside, the crew of the Vega Dream stayed on the vessel and instead used a bucket over the side of the vessel to pass iPads and paperwork to BHP employees,” he said.

“There were no special measures put in place, and after receiving the items from the crew members, the employees went back to work driving vehicles and operating ship loaders as normal.”

Mr Cain accused the McGowan government of putting the profits of the mining companies over the safety of the WA people.

BHP declined to comment when contacted by Daily Cargo News.

However, sources close to the company told DCN a load sequence (piece of paper) was taken off the vessel via a container on a rope connected to the shiploader as the automated data transfer system was temporarily not working and it is a legal and safety requirement we have a signed copy of the document to load the ship.

This is understood to have occurred prior to the COVID confirmation, or any indication of a suspected case.

BHP maintains that it has strict COVID controls for the ship loader cabins including routine deep cleaning and hand sanitisation requirements.