Container Ship at Sea off Tauranga tests positive for COVID-19

Media release

09 August 2021

Testing of the crew of a container ship, the Rio De La Plata currently at sea off the coast of Tauranga, has confirmed 11 of the 21 crew on board are positive for COVID-19.

It’s likely that at least some of the eleven crew are active cases of COVID-19 and further test results, expected today, will help determine how many of the crew are likely to be historical cases and no longer infectious. 

Public Health staff took the test swabs in Tauranga from the crew as part of the requirements for entry for the vessel to Napier - its next stop. 

All of the crew on board are reported to be well, with none reporting any symptoms. No crew members came Port-side while the ship was being unloaded in Tauranga. 

The ship is linked to a COVID case in an Australian pilot who was onboard the vessel July in Queensland and who later developed symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19 nine days after being aboard the vessel. The Australian pilot is confirmed to have the Delta variant and has not been linked to any other Queensland cases. 

Initial concerns about the link with the Australian pilot did result in loading of the vessel being temporarily halted on Wednesday (4 August) in Tauranga. An assessment carried out that day, cleared the ship, and unloading was allowed to resume the following day.   

The usual precautions and protocols in place by Port staff mean that any risks are appropriately managed.  As an additional precautionary measure, 94 port workers who as part of their work, spent time on the vessel while it was in port, are now being contacted, provided with advice, tested and stood down until a negative result returned. Testing for those staff is being arranged at the port this morning.

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