Coronavirus crisis: Sick crew aboard cargo ship Darya Krishna at Fremantle Port doubles to eight

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Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
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VideoFour crew on board the Darya Krishna cargo ship, sailing to Fremantle, have COVID symptoms

The number of crew reporting COVID-19 symptoms aboard a cargo ship at Fremantle Port has doubled to eight overnight, with authorities rushing to evacuate three sick seafarers before a storm arrives this afternoon.

The MV Darya Krishna was off Rottnest this morning and has since berthed in Fremantle Port later for the emergency removal of the three sick crew and to test the 17 remaining crew.

The three mariners will be transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital by St John Ambulance in dedicated COVID-19 vehicles by paramedics in full protective equipment.

The worsening situation on the Darya Krishna has the Health Department on high alert, with one crew member “very sick”.

“The weather is due to come in at lunchtime so they’re working out what to do with this particular crew member,” Premier Mark McGowan said this morning.

The Darya Krishna comes into dock at Fremantle as ambulance crews wait.
Camera IconThe Darya Krishna comes into dock at Fremantle as ambulance crews wait. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

“He is a second officer aboard … they’ll have to work out how to get him off and get him into some sort of medical care.”

The remaining predominantly Indian and Filipino crew will be tested for COVID-19 but will stay on the vessel to perform required daily maintenance.

In the case of the BBC California, which remains berthed at Fremantle Port after suffering a similar outbreak, four healthy crew were removed from the vessel to protect them from infection.

It remains to be seen whether authorities will take the same approach with the Darya Krishna, which is the fourth merchant ship that has arrived in WA waters with COVID-infected crew this month.

All four made stops in Indonesia prior to setting sail for WA and Mr McGowan said the Federal Government would speak to international shipping companies about banning crews for taking shore leave in the COVID-ravaged nation.

“We will turn away ships if we can. We will turn them away and send a message to the shipping companies,” he said.

“It may be a bit hard with this particular ship because of the number of people who are unwell.

Premier Mark McGowan at a press conference this morning.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan at a press conference this morning. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

“But if we can we’ll turn them away and that sends a sends a message to the shipping companies: you will lose money if you don’t deal with this situation.

“What they need to do, and the Prime Minister was clear about this, is the shipping companies need to take action.

“My view is when the ships are in Indonesia, the crew stay onboard, they don’t get off.

“When you get off and you go to some of the port towns, the likelihood is you will catch COVID.”

Mr McGowan said cargo ships arriving from Indonesia were “clearly a significant risk to the State and to the country” and that a similar threat from Filipino crews was effectively dealt with last year through the introduction of strict rules.

“The same happened last year with ships that had gone through the Philippines or at least with Filipino crew,” he said.

The BBC California berthed in Fremantle.
Camera IconThe BBC California berthed in Fremantle. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

“The protocols were tightened up with the shipping companies in the Filipino example (and) we're seeking the same thing to happen now with Indonesia.”

WA recorded zero new cases of COVID-19 overnight and Mr McGowan said the seafarers on board BBC California continued to recover from the virus with no date yet set for that vessel to depart.

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