Marina exposure to COVID-19 in Darwin sparks call to move international arrival point

Maritime workers in Darwin are calling for the international arrival point for yachts and other small vessels to be moved, after a COVID-19 scare that forced marina workers into quarantine. 

Authorities have confirmed three yachts have arrived from overseas in the past fortnight and docked at the pontoon in Cullen Bay, a busy residential and hospitality precinct on the edge of the Darwin CBD. 

The first, which arrived from Indonesia, arrived in mid-July carrying a 70-year-old man who later tested positive for COVID-19. A lockmaster who had contact with the man was forced into 14 days of quarantine, according to Cullen Bay Marina Management Corporation chief executive Allan McGill. The exposure was not previously disclosed by NT authorities.

“The lockmaster who was on duty that night was there helping out, giving the skipper of the boat some assistance to tie up,” Mr McGill said. “He ended up being in quarantine for 14 days because he was a close contact.”

An NT Health spokesperson said the contacts were identified and isolated “within 24 hours” of exposure and posed no risk to the public.

On Saturday, Health Minister Natasha Fyles said public notification was not necessary because the positive case had no contact with the general community.

But Mr McGill said he was concerned about the proximity of the international arrivals to members of the public at Cullen Bay.

The pontoon is used by passengers boarding ferries to Aboriginal communities on the Tiwi Islands as well as residents of Mandorah across Darwin Harbour. “There is now a lot of anxiety on the part of people using the ferries, other people who go down there, and residents of Cullen Bay.”

A second vessel arrived on Monday July 26 with one person on board and a third vessel on July 28 carrying two Australian citizens. Authorities say all three passengers were taken to the Howard Springs quarantine facility. 

The NT government said the marina was the only Commonwealth-approved pontoon for international arrivals. Maritime Union of Australia NT branch secretary Andrew Burford said a more secure location like the nearby Fort Hill Wharf should be considered. “I was dumbfounded when I found they were doing it [at Cullen Bay], to be honest,” he said. “[With] everything that we’ve been told that is floating in the air with this Delta strain, I’m really concerned. We’ve got members that work on those ferries right alongside.”

In an earlier statement Ms Fyles said she acknowledged the concerns of residents in Cullen Bay, and other options were being “actively considered.”

“Options for international vessels to dock at other areas continue to be considered but this ultimately requires suitable infrastructure and approval from the Commonwealth Government,” the statement said.

Ms Fyles said international vessels docking in Cullen Bay would be cordoned off as an extra safety measure and security would be engaged in the meantime.

In a statement, the Australian Border Force said the NT government had not requested the international arrival point be changed.

Credit, ABC News

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