News

2021 August 4 11:09

Western Australia looks to implementing stricter controls

As a result of a number of COVID infected vessels recently arriving in Western Australia the Premier has announced a number of measures which, if implemented, will affect ships seeking to enter Western Australia after transiting via higher risk countries. This is particularly relevant to Indonesia through which the recent vessels have transited, according to Standard Club's release.

The new measures which have not yet come into effect include:
 A ban on crew changes or onshore visits;
 Daily swabs of crew before arrival in Western Australia;
 Any seafarers seeking to disembark in Western Australia being required to be vaccinated;
 Ships Masters being required to sign declarations of adherence to the rules;

The Government has warned that if the protocols are not met then it will consider a temporary ban on vessels from high-risk countries.

There is a possibility of a new offence of “knowingly or recklessly” bringing COVID into Western Australia via a vessel which may carry penalties including fines and imprisonment.

There has also been reference to seizure (presumably arrest) of vessels pursuant to the Commonwealth Admiralty Act.

This issue is particularly high on the agenda of the State government because it is aware that there are currently a further six vessels sailing to Western Australia having transited in Indoneisa.

The Western Australia Department of Health has released information concerning the process to transition the status of a vessel from exposed to unexposed in Western Australia.

There are now two options.

The shipping company is required to develop and submit a detailed transition plan to the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (“PHEOC”) outlining the adoption of either Option 1 or Option 2 below.

Under this option the COVID risk is mitigated by placing the vessel into fourteen days of quarantine on its arrival into Western Australia and undertaking testing of the crew. At a minimum, depending upon the travel history of the vessel, testing occurs at day 0 (initial test) and on day 11 (11 days after the first test).

The testing requires the approval of the Chief Health Officer and is a PCR test

There are particular rules in relation to the swab collection and self-collected swabs will not be accepted.

The testing is required to be through a private pathology company or contractor who must have Chief Health Officer approval.

Details of the doctor who will complete the request forms for testing must be provided and the cost of specimen collection and testing is the responsibility of the vessel.

The second option to mitigate COVID risk is by undertaking an enhanced cleaning of the vessel.

Under this option, all persons who were onboard the vessel when it arrived in Western Australia waters must disembark from the vessel and be managed as follows:

a. enhanced cleaning of the vessel occurs so that the new crew embark onto cleaned areas of the vessel and the old disembarked from areas of the vessel that are then cleaned after they leave;

b. any interactions between the disembarking crew and the new embarking crew must be minimised with appropriate infection prevention and control measures in place to mitigate risk of transmission; and

c. all crew must follow current State directions when disembarking from the vessel and quarantine in State hotel facilities for fourteen days if remaining within Western Australia.

Furthermore, a detailed cleaning plan must be provided to PHEOC outlining the cleaning protocols to be used that mitigate risk of cross contamination and infection including how cleaning will occur as the last of the old crew disembark. The plan must be specific to the vessel type and number of crew onboard and be a comprehensive plan that includes all areas of the vessel. Once again there are particular requirements regarding testing of crew which must be at private pathology collection center.