Letter to the Editor | 11 July 2020
‘The six COVID-19 positive cases confirmed by PHA are not staff members of Seaward company’
Since April 2020, Seaward Co. Pty Ltd, Shipping Agency collectively with the ship owners, Public Health Authority, the department of civil aviation, ports and marine, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and other relevant authorities undertook the responsibility in assisting the shipowners in carrying out the crew changes for the Spanish fishing fleet it represents.
Since then over 1,000 seafarers have been replaced. Collectively, the mentioned parties established the protocol and guidelines necessary for the crew changes to take place. The protocols and guidelines have been reviewed after each crew changeover operation which have taken place since May 10, 2020.
The West African crew transfer was carried out with the same solidarity as that of the Spanish crew changes.
The planification for the West African crew changeover started in Mid-May. The laboratories were identified and communicated to the Public Health Authority who accepted and agreed and was received accordingly. The laboratories were Institut Pasteur (Dakar, Senegal) and Farah Clinique (Abidjan, Ivory Coast).
The engagement of procuring the services for the air travel transportation through Air Seychelles – the national airline – was viewed positively by the shipowners, ensuring that the Seychelles economy continues to benefit in these difficult times. In that sense Air Seychelles was selected for the West African crew changeover.
In preparation for the flight, the seafarers were home isolated, and others isolated in hotels since June 8 in other cases. Quarantine follow-ups were carried out by the Institut National d’Hygiène Publique and l’Union Discipline du Travail of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were carried out between June 17-18, 2020 on all 140 seafarers in both Abidjan and Dakar by the approved laboratories. Only the negative tested seafarers were approved before embarkation and the results submitted to the Public Health Authority and the airline as per protocol agreed.
An antibody test was also performed on all seafarers on June 22, 2020 and again all results received were negative and were submitted to the airline, Air Seychelles and the Public Health Authority as per protocol.
As indicated by the Public Health Authority of Seychelles, investigations are ongoing in regard to the outcome of positive cases detected after PCR retests which were undertaken when the seafarers boarded the ships on June 23, 2020.
Seaward Co. Pty Ltd and the ship owners, in all circumstances, undertook the operations for the crew changes for the West African crew which took place on June 23, 2020, by closely following all the agreed protocols and guidelines.
Out of the 20 vessels represented by the company, crew transfers for 16 of these vessels were carried out, with a total of 140 West African seafarers, namely from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
The operations were carried out with a team of 11 of Seaward Co. Pty Ltd staff members. All safety measures and precautions were fully observed by our team. Out of the 11 persons from our team, only six staff members were considered at minimum risk and were ordered into home isolation since June 25, 2020.
We must point out that, Seaward Co. (Pty) Ltd and the ship owners, decided to equip the vessels with rapid test kits and all personal protective materials such as facemasks, hydro alcoholic sanitisation hand gel, gloves amongst others since May 2020 as additional measures for safety. It has to be noted that it was one vessel under our agency that detected the anomaly when the seafarers boarded, and rapid tests were carried out.
All six staff members who were under home isolation underwent PCR testing on July 2, 2020 and all results were negative. A second PCR test was carried out on July 7, 2020 and all results were confirmed negative and exit certificates were issued accordingly.
All Seaward Co. (Pty) Ltd office staff members underwent rapid testing on July 7, 2020 and all the results are negative. We must point out that the six COVID-19 positive cases confirmed by the Public Health Authority are NOT staff members of Seaward Co. (Pty) Ltd.
The crew members continue to be safely quarantined on board their ships and have been undergoing a second PCR test since Wednesday July 7, 2020.
The shipowners have shown their appreciation towards the government of Seychelles and all its relevant departments and agencies, through a letter dated July 6, 2020.
The shipowners continue to closely monitor the results of the new tests being undertaken and are committed to continue to work in close collaboration with the Public Health Authorities and all other relevant department and services in resolving this matter and ensuring the sustainability of the fishing industry which is currently the main stable source of foreign exchange earner and all actors in the industry are working hard in the best interest of the country in Seychelles.
Management of Seaward Co Pty Ltd,
Shipowners Association – OPAGAC,
and Shipowners – Inpesca SA and Albacora SA