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Sanmar Shipping crude tanker quarantined at Vizhinjam after crew tests Covid-19 positive

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on May 11, 2021

Five members were tested positive

A crude oil tanker owned by Sanmar Shipping Ltd has been quarantined at Vizhinjam Port for 14 days from Monday after five crew members on the ship were tested Covid-19 positive, while attempting to carry out crew change.

‘M T Sanmar Songbird’ sailed from Vadinar port in Gujarat on April 28 to Durban in South Africa.

However, on April 28 a crew died due to Covid, off the coast of Mangalore and so the ship sailed to New Mangalore Port Trust to disembark the body citing suspected heart attack as the cause of death. The ship also signed off two more crew members at New Mangalore Port.

On 2 May, Covid-19 tests were carried out on the three crew members including the deceased crew. They were found to be positive on 3 May, but by that time the ship had sailed out of New Mangalore Port.

The ship then diverted to Vzhinjam to carry out crew change and the ship’s local agent Dowins Resources Pvt Ltd requested the Port Health Organisation to carry out the task citing medical emergency allegedly suppressing the fact that the crew members were Covid-19 positive.

But, five crew members who disembarked from the ship after sign off were found to be positive upon testing.

“The ship’s agent tried to carry out crew change citing medical emergency by allegedly concealing the fact that the crew on board were COVID positive,” said a Port Health Organisation (PHO) official.

This is a punishable offence under the Disaster Management Act and those involved in committing such serious lapses in dealing with the on-board detection of Covid-19 positive cases are liable to be prosecuted, he said.

An order issued by the Directorate General of Shipping on March 20, 2020 states that: “If the maritime declaration of health given by the master is found to be incorrect and not reflecting the factual conditions of health of persons on board the vessel, the master is liable to be prosecuted as per applicable laws. All agents of the vessel shall ensure that this information regarding possible prosecution for incorrect declaration is clearly informed to the vessel before its arrival at Indian Ports.”

“Please be informed that action may be taken against the Master and the agents and ship owners for suppression of the fact that there were crews with contagious diseases on board under the Kerala Disaster Management Act 2005 and Epidemic Disease Act 1897. By suppression of facts, you have risked the lives of your crews, agents and other port officials,” the Port Health Officer at Cochin of the Central government’s Port Health Organisation told the ship’s master in a letter written on Monday.

This to state that on examination of maritime declaration of health, it has come to my notice that you had concealed facts on the health question in the Maritime Declaration of Health dated May 4, he wrote in the letter.

The Port Health Officer said that the ship’s master did not share the dead crew's details and cause of death.

Besides, there were two people who tested positive and were signed off at Mangalore seaport, but this was “concealed.”

“While you were aware of COVID -19 positive cases on board because you had tested all your crews in Mangalore Port and known for sure the Covid status of the crews and this also you had concealed from Port Health Organisation, Cochin,” the Port Health Officer said.

Despite all these developments, nine seafarers were signed on the ship on Monday.

Published on May 10, 2021

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