MV Rio De La Plata. File Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Wayne A Court

COVID-19 Scare on Containership in New Zealand

Mike Schuler
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August 13, 2021

New Zealand health officials have confirmed at least 11 cases of COVID-19 on board a Hamburg Sud containership off the coast of Tauranga, putting dozens of port workers in health and safety protocols.

The country’s Ministry of Health said crew members of the MV Rio De La Plata were tested earlier this month as part of routine testing requirements for entry to the Port of Napier, located on the opposite side of New Zealand’s North Island. However, that port call never happened.

Test results showed 11 positive cases among the ship’s 21 crew members. All were reported to be asymptomatic.

“The ship is linked to a COVID case in an Australian pilot who was onboard the vessel July in Queensland and who later developed symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19 nine days after being aboard the vessel,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said. “The Australian pilot is confirmed to have the Delta variant and has not been linked to any other Queensland cases.”

Loading of the vessel earlier in the month at Tauranga was temporarily halted after officials learned of the Australian pilot. However, following an assessment, the ship was cleared and unloading was allowed to resume. Nevertheless, 94 port workers who came into contact with the vessel while in port are being monitored as part of protocol.

AIS shows the Singapore-registered MV Rio De La Plat departed Tauranga on August 7 bound for Malaysia.

An update from the Health Ministry said all port workers having contact with the Rio De Le Plata crew have returned initial negative results. Two pilots, who have also both tested negative, remain in isolation for 14 days since possible exposure.

The scare comes after crew members tested positive for the Delta variant on board the MV Mettina in July.

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