Jessica Mulhall outside the Gladstone Mission to Seafarers
Jessica Mulhall outside the Gladstone Mission to Seafarers

Seafarers stay onboard ships amid Covid-19 fears

There has been an increase in the number of seafarers ­entering the Port of Gladstone choosing not to come ashore as the spread of coronavirus continues.

Gladstone Seafarers Centre delivers onshore hospitality to shipping crews and manager Jessica Mulhall says there has been a significant drop in patronage over the past couple of weeks.

"Yesterday was the first day we actually didn't have any seafarers contact us for transport at all," she said yesterday.

Concern about catching coronavirus from the general public also means more crew members are opting to wear protective masks.

The repercussions of catching the virus mean a loss of livelihood for people who are often supporting large families at home.

"Their concern is that if they're unwell, they can't work and if they don't work they can't get paid," she said.

"There's obviously that risk that if they take it back on board then their entire crew would be affected."

Ms Mulhall said the attitude from people in Gladstone ­towards people coming ashore remained largely positive.

"There's been one or two people in the very early days of coronavirus coming out who contacted the centre and asked what we were doing about the boat people," she said.

"We've certainly not seen any backlash towards the seafarers."

She's confident the measures put in place by Maritime Safety Queensland were ­protecting her staff and the general public.

"I still honestly believe that you have a higher risk of contracting coronavirus from the domestic market than you do from the seafarers," Ms Mulhall said.

Gladstone Ports Corporation is operating under a direction from MSQ that states ships that have left or transited through mainland China or South Korea must wait until 14 days have elapsed before entering a Queensland pilotage area.

"MSQ took the lead on this seven or eight weeks ago and have really been driving this home for an extended period of time, longer than when the aviation industry had concerns," Ms Mulhall said.

"Any threat that's been coming from sea has been mitigated long before the threat that came from the air."

Ms Mulhall's main concern is for her volunteers congregating in large groups.

"If anything we'll be standing down some of our older volunteers and we'll run on skeleton staff with some of our younger ones, not because of the risk from the seafarers but the risk of gatherings in general," she said.