COVID-19: Maritime Union calls for stricter border measures after 94 Tauranga port workers forced to isolate

The Maritime Union is raising questions about COVID-19 border processes after crew on a container ship off Tauranga tested positive for the virus. 

Nearly 100 Tauranga port workers who boarded the ship have been temporarily stood down after 11 crew members on the Rio De La Plata ship were confirmed to have COVID-19.

Health officials say it's likely at least some of the cases are active but all crew members are reported to be well.

Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison told Newshub the cases are a concern.

"You've got to go back and ask, 'what are the shipping companies doing about this? Are the shipping companies vaccinating the crews? Are they regularly testing the crew and providing that information?'

"This new [Delta] variant of COVID has come out and, as it seems in Australia, is a lot more infectious so like any health and safety process you've got to keep on reviewing to make sure we're doing the right thing.

"Maybe it's time to review what we've been doing and maybe change it, and that might be along the lines of asking, 'are the crews tested before they come to New Zealand?'"

The ship is linked to a COVID-positive Australian pilot who was on-board the vessel in Queensland last month, later confirmed to be infected with the Delta variant. The Ministry of Health said 94 port workers who spent time on the vessel had been stood down and will isolate until a negative COVID-19 test is returned.

In an update on Monday afternoon, the ministry said 91 of those workers had been tested for COVID-19 as of 11:30am.

"The first results are expected later today," a spokesperson said. 

"Some workers will require a second test, based on their contact with the ship, and will be required to remain in isolation until the result of those second tests are known.

"The ministry understands from local public health staff that all infection prevention controls, and PPE protocol, were followed by port workers who had contact with the ship during their duties."