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Singapore Finds COVID Cluster on Bunker Vessel in the Port

COVID-19 aboard Singapore bunker vessel
(file photo)

Published Jan 6, 2021 2:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Days after saying that it would take additional steps to control the spread of the coronavirus, Singapore officials confirmed a new cluster tied to one of the port’s bunker vessels. The bunker vessel, the NewOcean 6, operated by Palmstone Tankers & Trading has been placed in quarantine.

Announcing the actions taken to contain this cluster, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that all operations aboard the vessel were suspended. “The vessel will need to review all its procedures before it is allowed to resume operations,” the statement said.

"As of Jan 5, 2021, there are nine identified COVID-19 cases connected to a bunker tanker NewOcean 6," said MPA. The first confirmed case was an Indonesian crew member who began experiencing symptoms on December 23 and tested positive on December 30.

The day after the first positive test, the remaining 13 crew members aboard the bunker ship were all placed into quarantine. The Ministry of Health reports that seven additional Indonesian crew members began testing positive for the virus at the beginning of this week. Also, a Singaporean crew member who was the vessel’s cargo officer certifying bunker deliveries also tested positive for Covid-19. The Ministry of Health reported that the 55-year-old Singaporean man worked onboard the NewOcean 6 from December 21 to 23, and again from December 28 to January 2.

Singapore’s health authorities stressed that all of the quarantine protocols had been followed for the crew change aboard the bunker vessel. They could not identify the source of the virus. The 47-year-old Indonesian arrived in Singapore on December 17, after going through a 14-day quarantine in Indonesia, as per MPA regulations.  He reportedly tested negative on December 1, 16, and 17 and only then was permitted to join the bunker vessel’s crew.

At the beginning of the week, Singapore announced it was cracking down on enforcement efforts after a class surveyor, who was employed inspecting vessels at the Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard, tested positive. That resulted in a cluster at the yard that also spread to the families of the individuals.

The Ministry of Health also announced new travel restrictions and limits on crew changes in Singapore. People coming from or having visited South Africa in the last 14 days are not allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. A similar border restriction was also imposed on travelers from the United Kingdom. Included in these restrictions are crew with a recent travel history to the UK or South Africa within the last 14 days preceding arrival to Singapore. This includes sign-on crew traveling to Singapore by flight as well as sign-off crew from vessels that have called at these countries.