Western Australia mulls turning away Covid ships

With cases rising of ships arriving in Western Australia with crew infected by coronavirus, local politicians are talking of turning vessels away. Similar conversations are being had in other Australian states including Queensland while to the south New Zealand is also debating what to do with ships where known cases of Covid-19 are onboard.

Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia, told parliament on Tuesday that state authorities were working to determine whether they could turn infected vessels around, after dealing with four outbreaks on ships in local waters in three weeks.

“We are still looking at and getting as much information as we can on whether or not we can just turn ships around that turn up with infected seafarers, so that we send a message to the shipping companies and to the importers and exporters,” McGowan said, adding: “The problem with that of course, is if we launch that policy, is that they then may not tell us … that they have infected seafarers on board.”

Western Australia’s health minister Roger Cook earlier this month called for mining companies to seek alternative places for crew other than Manila after two ships arrived at Port Hedland from the Philippine capital with confirmed Covid-19 cases onboard.

“The logistics of these potential changes are still being investigated,” a spokesperson for Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy told Splash at the time.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. New Zealand and Australia have closed their borders to cruising yachts and now they want to turn away ships. Maybe we should make easier for them and simply not go there. Isolate them. How much more abuse does the maritime industry have to endure before be stand up and get some realism and practical handling of this crisis.

  2. Turning cargo ships away or even thinking about it by maritime nations just shows the degree of disregard to the human element, seafarers, while calling them key workers and heroes at sea!

    Taking Covid-19 tests of all crew prior cargo operations on suspect ships (by seeking 2 weeks of daily medical history of all crew prior to arrival) is prudent prevention of contagion, but turning them away, doesn’t sound right.

    Seafarers can’t get relieved due to travel restrictions and countries locking their borders and at least 1/3rd of all crew on board are serving months on board over their normal contract, with some of them stranded in board for as long as 18 months. Many seafarers are pondering at length on going back to sea as they are concerned of the uncertainty to get back to their family and getting medical attention, if needed. Many seafarers are taking a “wait and see” approach to re-join ships, especially in Covid19 affected countries.

    No right minded seafarer goes to sea to get Covid19. They need to be considered with dignity and as professionals and given medical attention, if they get infected during travel or during port interface, despite undergoing the 14 days quarantine period and testing prior departing home country.

  3. Our Seafarers shouldn’t have to stay as sea any longer than they have to. I actually can’t make the government out when they say that they are our hero’s at sea and are the key workers in this case, so the government should have them tested before coming ashore and if they are tested for Covid19 and have it then isolate them but don’t turn them away because you will have more problems on your hands for the shipping industry.

    Let the seafarers go home to there families, girl friends, friends and boy friends as I am sure they have been aboard a vessel long enough and they want to be able to stretch there legs and see different scenery. It not good for a captain or his crew to be stuck on a vessel for days because it affects there mental health and causes fights between the crew members also.

    The Seafarers are the ones that are in wet rough weather all the time and if they get sick then they are more likely to get Covid19 because there immune system is low.

    Let them go home to family and friends now.
    The Seafarers themselves need to go home for there own wellbeing as this is against humantarian rights.

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