Covid 19 coronavirus: Ken Rei logging ship carrying close contacts of new Covid case remains anchored off Napier

A ship with close contacts of a port worker who tested positive for Covid-19 remains anchored off Napier’s coast on Monday.

The Ken Rei logging ship was due to load logs in Napier and is carrying 21 crew.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told a press conference on Sunday that a male port worker from Auckland, who went to New Plymouth for work last week, had tested positive for Covid-19 on October 16.

He said the people from the vessel Ken Rei that the man worked on in New Plymouth are being treated as close contacts, and the vessel was on its way to Napier Port.

“The public health unit in Napier and other port authorities there will work carefully and closely to get in place plans to isolate and test the crew there … no one on board is symptomatic at this time,” Bloomfield said.

He said the case had been caught early and the risk of onward transmission had been quickly contained.

A Napier Port spokesperson on Monday confirmed that the ship remained offshore overnight and has not been into Napier Port.

“Our position remains that the ship should stay anchored offshore. We will await further instructions and assist public health as necessary.”

A Hawke’s Bay DHB spokesperson said it continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health and port officials.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand said the case shows the “urgent need” for costal shipping reform.

The port workers’ positive test highlighted the need to limit the number of international ports in New Zealand and implement domestic coastal shipping on a hub and spoke model, the union said.

Union national secretary Joe Fleetwood said the union had raised concerns about the risk of having international ships carry domestic freight repeatedly.

He said nearly all domestic sea freight is carried by international ships running international crews who are not covered by New Zealand law.

“It means that every single one of our ports is an international border point and it puts our members and the public at risk.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Other nations run a small number of international ports as hubs for their protected domestic sea freight which give them greater control of their border security and of their supply chains.

“There’s a reason our international airports are limited to large sites that can resource strong border security, we should be doing the same with our ports.

He said there should be two in the North Island and two in the South Island which would be “secure and safe points of entry for goods”.

“All other cargo should be shifted by New Zealand flagged vessels that operate under our law and are staffed by people from our team of five million.

“This kind of arrangement is standard for many of our trading partners and is how we used to do things before the deregulation of the industry in the 1990s.

“Domestically run coastal shipping offers greater border security, lower carbon emissions and road congestion, more economic security and stronger regional supply chains.”

Fleetwood said the union has been talking to the government “for a while” about the issue and both Labour and the Greens have “repeatedly backed the need to strengthen New Zealand flagged coastal shipping.”

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