INTERNATIONAL vessels arriving in ports of Albany, Bunbury and Esperance may no longer have to spend 14 days at sea prior to berthing, under new COVID-19 testing measures.

Having reviewed its COVID-19 protocol, Southern Ports has introduced testing alternatives allowing vessels to enter port if all crew members have received negative rapid antigen test results.

From 21 February, vessels will be permitted to berth if evidence of negative test results is supplied within 24 hours of the pilot boarding time.  

Southern Ports CEO Steve Lewis said the enhanced measure reflects the changing nature of the pandemic.

“As a state we are shifting our focus to re-opening our borders and managing community transmission, so it was appropriate for us to review our COVID-19 protocols for shipping,” Mr Lewis said.

“RATs have become a critical diagnostic tool and give us an enhanced opportunity to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for our staff, port users and our communities.

“When we introduced the 14-day measure, self-testing onboard was not available, so enforcing an isolation period for international vessels offered an additional layer of protection.”

Under the new protocol, vessels unable to provide evidence of negative RATs from all crewmembers will have to abide by the previous regulations.  

In this situation, a pilot will only be scheduled after the two-week period has lapsed from the vessel’s last overseas port visit.

Seafarers are still required to adhere to the Western Australian government’s Maritime Crew Member Directions, under which they are not permitted to disembark when in port.