Bizarre Cases of Food Poisoning on Three Different Ships

food poisoning on ships
Male in the Maldives assisted the first crew to fall ill (Maldies Ports Limited photo)

Published Feb 23, 2021 10:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Three ships operating in different parts of the world are all reporting cases of food poisoning among their crew. At least two crew members have died while others have been transferred from their ships and hospitalized. It might be coincidental or an outbreak of the more common norovirus, a common gastrointestinal disease, but it rarely causes deaths.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Maldives reported the first cases at the beginning of February. A 22,641 dwt Thai bulk carrier, the Lanna Nare, was sailing from Australia to Sri Lanka on a voyage that was continuing to San Juan, Puerto Rico with a crew of 18 on board. 

The vessel changed course and requested medical assistance from the Maldives, arriving in Male on February 9. With the coordination of the Royal Thai Embassy in Colombo, 13 sick crew members were transferred to a hospital where it was determined that they were suffering from food poisoning.  The ship’s cook reportedly died while in the Maldives.

The Ministry reported that it assisted with a crew change facilitating the 18 crew members returning to Thailand and a new crew arrived for the vessel. The Lanna Nare departed the following day on February 11 while the authorities continued to investigate to pinpoint the cause of the food poisoning.

Around the same time, a Singapore-flagged bulk carrier, the Thor Magnhild, arrived at Trois-Rivières, along the St. Lawrence River in Canada also requesting medical assistance. The Canadian health authorities reported that 17 crewmembers were being treated with gastrointestinal disorders but did not specify the cause. While registered in Singapore, the vessel has recently been sailing between Brazil, the Caribbean and Canada.

Last Friday, February 19, a third vessel, a smaller cargo ship, the 1,963 dwt April registered in Panama and operating on the Black Sea also requested medical assistance. Again, they were reporting that the crew was suffering from poisoning. At the time, the vessel was heading towards Turkey when they reported that five crew members were ill and one died. Russian authorities attempted to evacuate the ill crew but due to bad weather the ship was anchoring.

Officials from Rosmorrechflot later reported that they suspected food poisoning as the cause of the illness after ruling out other causes including a possible chemical leak or cargo fumigation.  Alcohol poisoning was also mentioned as a possible cause. In this latest instance, two crew members reportedly were not ill and the authorities were looking to differences in their activities versus the crewmembers that became ill.