First Confirmed COVID-19 Cases on a Container Ship

Gjertrud Maersk (file image courtesy HHM / Dietmar Hasenpusch)

Published Mar 30, 2020 4:45 PM by Paul Benecki

Maersk Group has confirmed that five seafarers aboard the container ship Gjertrud Maersk have tested positive for COVID-19, including four individuals who are asymptomatic. Last week, they were evacuated to a hospital in Ningbo, China for treatment, along with two additional crewmembers who tested negative. All are in stable condition, Maersk said. 

“We can confirm that during the past week, several seafarers on board the container vessel Gjertrud Maersk were feeling unwell,” a Maersk spokesperson told shipping media outlets on Monday. “As per our established protocols, the seafarers were isolated on the vessel when symptoms appeared and we are providing medical treatment based on input from our medical advisers . . . Extra precaution measures will be taken for crew replacement and sanitation will be implemented." 

The 9,000 TEU Gjertrud Maersk is the first container ship with publicly-reported positive COVID-19 cases on board. She is currently alongside the pier in Ningbo and awaiting phasing-in for a rotation on Maersk's network. 

Maersk Line has already suspended crew changes across its boxship fleet in order to minimize risk to its seafarers and to comply with the severe restrictions on travel in port states around the world. The move has been met with concern from some seafarers' advocacy organizations, notably ITF, which has called on Maersk and other vessel operators to allow crews to rotate off as scheduled and return to their homes.