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Rauma Shipyard in Finland Starts to Resume Work After COVID Lockdown

COVID outbreak at shipyards in Finland and Japan
Work was suspend at the Rauma shipyard after a coronavirus outbreah (file photo)

Published Feb 24, 2021 7:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

Recent outbreaks of the coronavirus are once impacting the operations at shipyards in Finland and Japan. Early in the pandemic, the industry had experienced significant delays in its work but with new measures and safety protocols shipbuilding has been proceeding. Last week, however, Finnish health authorities ordered one yard into lockdown while in Japan employees have been quarantined and operations are continuing under close supervision.

Rauma Marine Constructions in Finland is planning to resume limited on February 25 and 26 after Finnish health authorities ordered the yard to suspend all work late last week due to an emerging cluster of the virus. Mid-week health authorities had identified more than 50 cases of the virus and as testing increased there were 52 new cases recorded on February 18 leading to the order to stop all work at the yard. As of the last report, approximately 250 positive test results have been received with 800 of the yard’s approximately 1,000 employees placed in quarantine. None of the employees however had required hospitalization and many were showing no symptoms of the virus.

Health authorities were working with the shipyard trying to identify the source of the cluster. They cited the fact that nearly 800 of the workers were international employees who lived in accommodations while working at the yard. Further, cultural and language differences were being cited as contributing to the spread of the virus.

“We will resume production in a restrained manner,” announced Jyrki Heinimaa, CEO of Rauma Marine Constructions. “On Thursday and Friday, only a few dozen workers who have not been at the shipyard during the corona exposure will return to work. There will be no working at the shipyard over the weekend so we can take the time to prepare for the following week. The next workers returning to the shipyard will arrive next Monday, and the number will be increased day by day. All measures aim to get production up and running in safe working conditions.” 

All of the facilities at the shipyard were reportedly cleaned and sanitized on February 20 and 21. Also, the yard has been working with the local authorities to further enhance safety protocols and procedures that were initially introduced nearly a year ago.

“The plan and related instructions widely cover the entry into and operation in the shipyard area, as well as the rules and guidelines for example related to employees’ leisure time and living,” Heinimaa says. “We require negative test results from those returning to work. We will also increase random testing and, among other things, find out possibilities for quick testing when arriving to work. Entering the shipyard area while sick is not permitted.” 

Rauma Marine Constructions currently has three projects underway with the construction of Wasaline’s new car and passenger ferry the Aurora Botnia, Tallink’s car and passenger ferry the MyStar, and four multifunctional corvettes for the Finnish Defense Forces. The yard reports that it is reviewing the schedules for these projects. The week-long work stoppage and slow resumption may impact the delivery dates for some of the projects.

Separately, the outbreak at the Imabari Shipbuilding Co. in Japan has so far been contained to one crew and only spread to a few employees and contractors working at the yard. The outbreak is being linked to a crew that arrived in Japan on January 23 after having been organized by Haque & Sons, a Bangladeshi crew agency. All of the crew had negative test results before departing Bangladesh and were further quarantine for two weeks in Japan.

The crew had been working aboard an unnamed vessel starting on February 5 with new testing beginning on February 17 to prepare for a departure to China. Nine of the 20 crew subsequently tested positive for the virus and were quarantined. Follow-up testing on 60 individuals who had come in contact with the crew resulted in one more positive test from the ship and two positive tests for Japanese contractors. They were also awaiting test results of seven additional individuals believed to all be employees and Japanese contractors, while the majority had negative test results.

The shipyard apologized for the inconvenience and reported it was working with the local authorities in an attempt to contain any further spread of the virus. Other parts of the shipyard have continued to operate.