Singapore Cracks Down After Class Surveyor Catches COVID-19

class survey singapore
File image courtesy Sembcorp

Published Jan 4, 2021 12:08 AM by The Maritime Executive

Singapore's Ministry of Health is tightening its COVID-19 control measures for its maritime workforce after a class surveyor and a harbor pilot tested positive for the disease. 

The surveyor, who works for a prominent class society and was employed inspecting vessels at the Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard, tested positive on December 30. Two of his family members also tested positive on New Years' Eve. The harbor pilot, a 55-year-old Singaporean national, tested positive on December 31, along with two of his relatives. 

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) quickly launched a special contact tracing and testing operation to identify and test individuals who were aboard any of the ships that the surveyor and pilot boarded. On Saturday, after further inquiry, the MOH said that it appeared that the surveyor may have broken COVID-19 prevention protocols by eating with the crew of a ship. Officials believe that a similar breach allowed a Singaporean marine service engineer to catch coronavirus from the crew of a vessel in November. 

"Preliminary investigations reveal that the marine surveyor, like the marine service engineer who tested positive for COVID-19 infection earlier . . . consumed food provided by or with the crew onboard the ships, which was against a precautionary measure," the MOH wrote in a joint statement with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Economic Development Board. "[We] take a serious view of non-compliance with COVID-19 safe management measures and will not hesitate to take firm actions against the errant companies and individuals."

The MOH said that the class society that employs the marine surveyor has suspended all its shipboard work in Signapore, including surveys and audits, and is now testing all of its Singapore-based surveyors. "Further actions may be taken against the companies and individuals after investigations have been completed," the agency said. 

In addition, the MOH is requiring all shore-based Singaporean personnel who go aboard ships to take a COVID-19 swab test by January 8. The measure will cover more than 20,000 people. Going forward, they will be retested every seven days, instead of the 14 day cycle required previously. 

The Maritime and Port Authority also plans to step up its checks to ensure compliance with Singapore's COVID-safe protocols for maritime companies. "Individuals and companies which are found to have violated these measures will be taken to task," MPA warned.

Singapore is entering the third phase of reopening its economy after a prolonged period of stringent COVID-19 restrictions, and its government hopes to suppress community spread. The nation of 5.7 million people has recently gone days at a stretch without a single new locally-transmitted case.