Third ship anchored off the coast of Newfoundland with confirmed COVID-19 cases among crew
ST. JOHN’S, NL – There are now three ships anchored off the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board, provincial health officials said Monday.
The last ship is in a bay off the small community of Bay Bulls, about 30 kilometers south of St. John’s, and the Department of Health said four of its crew tested positive for illness over the weekend. One of these patients was taken to hospital.
The department’s press release does not identify the vessel, but vessel tracking websites indicate that a Portuguese fishing trawler called Santa Cristina is anchored in the bay. For Karl Risser, an Atlantic Canada inspector at the International Federation of Transport Workers, this is another sign that international sailors need a COVID-19 vaccination plan.
“Especially in the fishing industry,” he said in an interview on Monday. “They are packed on these very tight ships, much more than you would see on a container ship or an oil tanker.”
Fishing is already a dangerous way to make a living, he said, and working conditions during the COVOD-19 pandemic only made the situation worse.
The ship off Bay Bulls is the third now anchored and awaiting COVID-19 infections, and the fourth to do so in the past three months. The Princesa Santa Joana, another Portuguese fishing trawler, and the Iver Ambition, an Italian flagged bitumen tanker, are both anchored in Conception Bay, about 25 kilometers west of St. John’s.
Officials last week confirmed that 31 crew members on the fishing boat tested positive. Two of those crew members are now hospitalized, the department said on Monday. Earlier this month, 14 sailors from the tanker tested positive and officials said on Monday that number remained unchanged.
In May, a bulk carrier owned by Fednav, an international shipping company headquartered in Quebec, also anchored in the bay and waited for COVID-19 infections among 14 of its crew.
Developing a plan to vaccinate international ship crews when they enter provincial waters would be complicated, Risser admitted, but it can be done. He said he spent Monday helping the crew of the IT Intrepid, a Barbados-registered cable ship, get vaccinated in Halifax. “It’s the same as a fishing boat, there’s a lot of crew on a cable installer,” he said. “You really have to deal with these guys before there is an outbreak.”
As of Monday afternoon, six of the 52 crewmembers had received an injection and he said he was working on getting more vaccinated.
“I hope they will do the same in Newfoundland as well,” said Risser. “If we’re worried about the variants, well, these countries that the sailors come from, a lot of them haven’t even received their first vaccines yet, so that’s where it’s going to come from. So we really need to start this vaccination procedure as early as possible. “
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 19, 2021.