Rio de la Plata Update: Tuesday 10 August

We have not received any official information from the Ministry of Health but have been advised informally that 109 negative tests have been received so far in this round of urgent testing.

Almost all of our own frontline staff are vaccinated, but there are dozens of companies that work on the port. Vaccinations have been available at Port of Tauranga since March but the border order making vaccination compulsory was only introduced on 14 July. Frontline port workers must now have their first dose by 30 September. We strongly support vaccination and have provided information sessions and vaccination centres on site. We are hosting another two vaccination clinics on site over the next two weeks. Vaccination is another useful tool in the fight against Covid-19, but we will continue to follow all our other precautions that have worked for the past 18 months: frequent cleaning, use of PPE, physical distancing from ship’s crew and regular Covid-19 testing.

These precautions were followed by all workers who boarded the Rio de la Plata last week. Port of Tauranga treats all vessels as if they have Covid-19 on board.

The ship was tied up at Port of Tauranga from 6pm on Wednesday 4 August to 2pm on Saturday 7 August. On Tuesday, 3 August, Port of Tauranga received an alert from Maritime NZ that the ship had been boarded two weeks ago by an Australian pilot, who had tested positive for Covid-19. Maritime NZ subsequently cleared the ship for pilot boarding. The ship was also cleared to berth by the Medical Officer of Health at the local Public Health Unit as part of the normal free pratique process.

A Port of Tauranga pilot boarded the vessel at approximately 5pm on Wednesday and brought the ship in to the Tauranga Container Terminal. At about 9pm, Customs NZ unexpectedly shut down operations on the ship and the local Public Health Unit advised Port of Tauranga that our pilot and the stevedores unloading the ship should go home and isolate while awaiting further instructions.

On Thursday morning, Government agencies have clarified the situation and the Public Health Unit advised us that operations can resume on the vessel and there was no need for workers to isolate.

Our primary concern is for the port workers, including our pilots, who have been put in a very stressful situation. Victim blaming and abuse is not helpful.

The container terminal is still operating at about 50% capacity until the stevedores are formally advised they can return to work. Some workers will be re-tested today and we expect them to return to the port over the next few days.