Australian Border Force and Maritime Safety Queensland announced a series of rules designed to strengthen biosecurity at the state’s ports.
Australian Border Force and Maritime Safety Queensland announced a series of rules designed to strengthen biosecurity at the state’s ports.

Tough new measures at Qld's ports amid global pandemic

GLADSTONE Ports Corporation is remaining flexible to keep trade flowing and protect the welfare of its workers as strict new measures come into effect.

Australian Border Force and Maritime Safety Queensland have announced a series of rules designed to strengthen biosecurity at the state's ports amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A direction from MSQ announced on March 18 means ships must not enter a Queensland pilotage area until 14 days have passed since it, or any person on-board, left a foreign country.

GPC said it was ready to respond to all updated requirements.

"As an island nation, ports are the economic gateway that facilitate essential trade for the country and business continuity remains our focus," a spokeswoman said.

"Adjustments are being considered by exporters and importers, and it is essential we work together to consider the people who operate our ports to keep them open."

A total of 1299 vessels entered Queensland ports between January 31 and March 16.

Of these, 1144 reported 'no' to the mandatory questions relating to the reporting of symptoms.

When suspected symptoms are reported, arrangements are made through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra for a remote health assessment to be carried out by a telehealth doctor.

The ABF also announced a series of new measures that apply to all commercial vessels arriving from outside Australia.

As of March 17, crews must remain on-board while the vessel is berthed.

They are only allowed to disembark to conduct essential vessel functions and they must wear personal protective equipment.

The restrictions apply until 14 days have elapsed since the vessel departed from a foreign port, unless there is a suspected case of COVID-19.

If a vessel is at sea for 10 days, the period of self-isolation for crew members would be an additional four.

GPC said the new requirements from MSQ and ABF would allow ports to operate safely, and that the health of maritime personal was a priority.

GPC confirmed staff are avoiding all unnecessary work-related travel and hygiene, and social distancing precautions were encouraged.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the policy from MSQ was tough but necessary.

"Losing highly skilled marine pilots to infection, particularly at regional ports, could have a catastrophic effect on trade at those ports over many months. The Australian economy can't afford that," he said.

"Any vessel over 50 metres in length cannot enter a port without a licensed pilot. There are a limited number of specialised licensed pilots for each of Queensland's 21 ports."

Mr Bailey confirmed there had been a reduction in containers arriving at Queensland ports due to production shutdowns in China, but said the bulk of exports had been largely unaffected.

To date, no cases of COVID-19 had been identified at Queensland ports.


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