Bunker tanker NewOcean 6 ceases operations after Covid-19 cluster discovered on board

Ships docked off the southern coast of Singapore on July 18, 2020.
Ships docked off the southern coast of Singapore on July 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - NewOcean 6, a bunker tanker at the centre of Singapore's latest Covid-19 cluster, has been quarantined and will cease all operations until further notice.

The vessel, which is operated by Palmstone Tankers & Trading, will need to review all its procedures before it is allowed to resume operations, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 6).

Bunker tankers are a type of harbourcraft that operate in the port of Singapore and provide essential marine services such as refuelling ships calling at Singapore.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said nine cases were linked to the cluster.

Among the nine, the first patient to be confirmed, an Indonesian crew member, tested positive on Dec 30, 2020.

He experienced an onset of symptoms on Dec 23.

The 47-year-old work permit holder arrived in Singapore on Dec 17, after going through a 14-day quarantine in Indonesia, as per MPA regulations.

The rules require crew members arriving from overseas to work on board harbourcraft to test negative for Covid-19 at the start and end of their 14-day quarantine period in their home country.

Upon arrival in Singapore, they are tested again and need to self-isolate in a room until their test results are known before boarding the harbourcraft.

The Indonesian man, identified as case 58,812 by MOH, tested negative thrice, on Dec 1, 16 and 17.

He started work on NewOcean 6 after his test result on Dec 17 returned negative, said MPA.

Following his positive test result on Dec 30, 13 remaining crew members were quarantined from Dec 31, said MPA.

Seven other Indonesian crew members and a Singaporean crew member were reported by MOH to be infected with Covid-19 subsequently.

One was reported on Sunday, another on Monday, and the remaining six on Tuesday.

MPA said the foreign crew members on board the bunker tanker did not disembark prior to being tested positive. It added that the Singapore crew member is a cargo officer who certifies bunker delivery on board the vessel.

On Tuesday, MOH said the 55-year-old Singaporean man was on board NewOcean 6 from Dec 21 to 23, and from Dec 28 to Jan 2.

He was at his home in Tah Ching Road between Dec 23 and 28.

The man's earlier tests from rostered routine testing - the last on Dec 23 - had returned negative for Covid-19.

He was taken to a government quarantine facility last Saturday, and tested positive for Covid-19 infection the next day.

He was then taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. His serological test result has come back negative, indicating a likely current infection.

MPA said it reminds owners and operators of harbourcraft to implement and comply with safe management measures aboard vessels.