Philippines Probes Ship Virus Outbreaks to Avoid Ban on Mariners

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Cruise ships sit idle in the waters of Manila Bay as their crew completes quarantine before being allowed to disembark, on May 29, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Cruise ships sit idle in the waters of Manila Bay as their crew completes quarantine before being allowed to disembark, on May 29, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

By Claire Jiao

The Philippines is investigating COVID-19 outbreaks on ships that changed crews in Manila in a bid to avoid a ban on Filipino seafarers.

Stricter protocols in crew-change hubs may be put in place, depending on the probe’s results, Transportation Assistant Secretary Narciso Vingson Jr. said in a statement Friday.

The investigation comes after infections were recorded among crew of Australia-bound bulk carriers Vega Dream and the Patricia Oldendorff, raising possibility of a ban on seafarers from the Philippines, which supplies a quarter of the world’s merchant marine workforce.

Vingson said the infections may have occurred before the government standardized testing in a new facility it opened in Manila’s port last month for arriving and departing Filipino seafarers. Prior, manning agencies were “operating on their own and may be lacking in monitoring,” he said.

The Western Australia Today reported on Oct. 12 that Australian mining companies won’t use any seafarers from Manila, the epicenter of the Philippine outbreak. The Southeast Asian nation’s maritime agency has not received official notice of this move, said Luisito delos Santos, who heads its information service.

Vessels have been diverting to the Philippines to facilitate crew changes after the pandemic shut borders and limited flights. The nation has more than 350,000 COVID-19 cases.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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