Maritime authorities are conducting an investigation for the possible lapses after 28 crew of roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) passenger ship tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade has directed on Friday, Aug. 13, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to investigate the lapses, which led to the incident of COVID-stricken RoRo vessel MV Saint Anthony de Padua.
In the preliminary investigation, it was revealed that 25 seafarers on board the vessel have tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 7.
Authorities said the passenger ship continued to transport passengers despite the indications of COVID-19 infections among its crew members on board the ship.
Meanwhile, three infected crew also disembarked from the ship on Aug. 1 and 5 at Batangas port without securing a permit from the PPA.
“Although they have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, the vessel’s shipping company only informed the PCG and PPA about the three seafarers days after they left the ship. Currently, they remain confined but are in stable condition,” the MARINA, PPA, and PCG said in a joint statement.
Authorities said at least 433 passengers on board on Aug. 1 to 4, “may now have indirect or direct exposure to the disease.”
“As part of standard protocol, these passengers are being subjected to a rigorous contact-tracing process,” it added.
The incident led to the issuance of a show cause order to the shipping company by the PPA Port Management Office (PMO) – Batangas on Aug. 11.
The maritime authorities bared that most of the crew members have been reported to be asymptomatic.
However, a medical team from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) is also on standby if there is a sudden need to evacuate any of the seafarers on board the vessel.
Meanwhile, seafarers who tested negative for COVID-19 also remain on board until they are given clearance by the BOQ.
The PPA said its personnel will continue to monitor the port operations of the passenger vessel, as well as ensure the centralized movements in the Batangas port.
Meanwhile, the PCG personnel are conducting 24/7 seaborne patrol to ensure security within the perimeter where the vessel is currently anchored.
“The country’s maritime transport authorities call on the riding public to report shipping companies and non-compliant vessels that are found to be violating the established health protocols of the national government. This is to maintain the safety of both the sea riding public and vessel crew amid the pandemic,” the authorities added.
Authorities have yet to determine how long the crew members will remain in quarantine on board the vessel.