MV Mattina. FILE PHOTO: des Landis

COVID Outbreak on Ship Off New Zealand Confirmed as Delta Variant

Mike Schuler
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July 23, 2021

Crew members of a Marshall Islands-flagged containership are being quarantined on board the ship off New Zealand after testing positive for the highly transmissible Delta strain of COVID-19.

The MV Mattina arrived at the Port of Bluff on Sunday with two crew members showing symptoms of COVID-19. Tests of all 21 crew members have confirmed at least nine cases of the virus. An update from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said genome sequencing tests have shown that the crew members have the Delta variant.

The agency said plans have been finalized to disembark crew members who have tested negative, including the ship’s captain, and isolate away from the positive crew members. Those with the virus are being quarantined on the ship.

AIS ship tracking data shows the Mettina arrived from Freemantle, Western Australia. The Ministry of Health said that the cases were not linked to any in New Zealand.

Read: Shipping Chaos Will Grow With Most Seafarers Unvaccinated

“As we indicated in our update earlier today, all crew who have tested positive will remain quarantined on board the vessel at this time, where they will maintain the minimum functions at the port. They will not have direct contact with any port staff while maintaining these functions,” the Ministry’s update said.

“Plans have now been finalised to ensure the three negative crew members, including the ship’s captain, are able to safely leave the ship and isolate away from the crew members who are positive.

“In some cases, it is safer to manage the smaller group of negative cases, by taking them off the ship,” the update said.

The captain is expected to isolate in a facility close by to the ship so he can return in case of emergency.

The outbreak comes amid growing calls to improve vaccine access for seafarers to prevent more disruptions to global trade.

“It’s a perfect storm,” says Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping. “With this new delta strain, there’s no doubt it’s setting us back and the situation is getting worse. Demand for products isn’t letting up, crew changes aren’t happening fast enough and governments continue to stick their heads in the sand.”


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