File photo. A coal ship is at anchor off Gladstone after the captain reported one of the crew had flu-like symptoms.
File photo. A coal ship is at anchor off Gladstone after the captain reported one of the crew had flu-like symptoms. CHRISSY HARRIS

Coal ship detained amid coronavirus fears

THE health of a crew member onboard an international coal ship, anchored off Gladstone, is being monitored amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

The bulk carrier Ultra Bellambi left China on January 19 and was due to dock at Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal this week.

But the vessel has been forced to remain at anchor off Gladstone after the captain reported a crew member had recently had flu-like symptoms.

Maritime Safety Queensland told The Observer the crew member had been isolated and was being monitored.

Ultra Bellambi was one of 29 vessels that arrived at Queensland ports in the 12 hours between 5pm February 4 and 5am February 5.

The MSQ spokesperson said only one passenger was reported to have displayed flu-like symptoms.

They said Queensland Health is aware of the situation. 

The response is part of increased monitoring of all ships arriving at Queensland ports following the coronavirus outbreak.

As of midnight, January 31, all ships arriving at Queensland ports must provide information about crew who: visited Hubei Province, China, in the past fortnight; mainland China since February 1, 2020; or are showing any signs of coronavirus symptoms.

If the response to any question is yes, the matter is reported to state and federal agencies for further advice.

Ships are directed back to sea or kept at anchor until assessed and cleared.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union argues this process does not go far enough to protect workers.

CFMEU mining and energy unit district vice-president Shane Brunker said the onus should not be on ship captains to provide information about the health of their crews.

"The pressure these companies and agents are putting on the captains is going to lead to a breakdown in our quarantine standards," Mr Brunker said.

"The companies are already complaining that if a ship is quarantined, who's going to pay the fees for staying at anchor, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Instead the union wants biosecurity to inspect every ship before it arrives at port.

The MSQ spokesperson said they were working with federal authorities to develop extra measures that might be needed once vessels began arriving that had left mainland China after February 1.

These vessels are not expected to arrive before February 10.

A Gladstone Ports Corporation spokesperson said biosecurity, the safety of its workers and the wider community was its top priority.

"The immediate threat is considered relatively low based on the known incubation period of the virus and the time vessels spend at sea before they arrive in Australian waters," they said.

"As a significant Port, GPC remains vigilant and active toward any risks presenting through our ports operations."