PORTS Australia is calling for greater government engagement with industry before lockdowns begin lifting after employees at three container terminals in Sydney and Melbourne tested positive to COVID-19.

Over the past week workers returned positive tests at DP World Australia’s Port Botany terminal, Hutchison Ports Australia’s Port Botany terminal and Victoria International Container Terminal in Melbourne. The stevedores are working closely with the relevant state health authorities to identify close and casual contacts and to ensure the health and safety of employees and the community.

Ports Australia is calling for government to begin engaging and planning with industry on how these situations are managed once their likelihood drastically increases as state lockdowns are lifted.

The ports peak body said desktop exercises are valuable ways of combining industry and government authorities to work through scenarios like these we’ve seen at Port Botany.

Ports Australia believes the federal government should begin co-ordinating state and territory governments to begin carrying out such exercises with industry within their jurisdictions.

Ports Australia CEO Mike Gallacher said these won’t be the only occurrences of this kind – lockdowns will lift in the coming months and preparation must start now.

“If this instance of COVID-19 invading a workforce has occurred while Sydney and Melbourne are still under hard lockdown, one can only imagine the likelihood of such instances once we begin living with the virus and our supply-chain workers are exposed by the community whether vaccinated or not,” Mr Gallacher said.

“We’re fortunate to have avoided major disruptions to the supply chain after these instances due to the relatively low number of workers deemed close or casual contacts, but we may not be so lucky in times to come.

“We cannot have outbreaks like these standing down masses of wharfies, truckies, rail operators or any critical worker in between who serve essential roles for our community,” Mr Gallacher said.