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Longliner returning to NZ from Falklands forced to comply with “bubble” when they reach home

Thursday, July 23rd 2020 - 11:38 UTC
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Longliner San Aotea II will be forced to spend up to four days on board the vessel once it reaches Timaru Longliner San Aotea II will be forced to spend up to four days on board the vessel once it reaches Timaru

The crew and passengers of the New Zealand San Aotea II longline fishing trawler, making their way back from the Falkland Islands, will be forced to spend up to four days onboard the vessel once it reaches Timaru to satisfy Covid-19 regulations.

Sanford spokesperson Fiona MacMillan said those on board would not be allowed to step off at Timaru’s port until they had been on the ship for a full 28 days since leaving the Falkland Islands, Covid-19 testing was done and paperwork had been completed.

“They will not be able to disembark immediately as the new Covid regulations require them to stay isolated for a total of 28 days,” MacMillan said.

They are expected to arrive on August 1, a day before the 28-day period had finished, she said.

In June, the Ministry of Health put in place strict isolation or quarantine requirements for those arriving at the maritime border to prevent the spread of Covid-19, she said.

“Even though our guys are Covid free, they’ve been in the Falklands which is Covid free, they’ve been fishing which is Covid free,” they would still have to obey the rules, she said.

The Falkland Islands has reported 13 Covid-19 cases since April 3 – all of whom have recovered.

MacMillan said the crew and passengers would have to wait until paperwork is completed and Covid-19 testing is done.

“Once results are back (expected to be on August 4) the vessel can be accessed, and they can disembark and go home. Until then, they stay in their bubble.”

The San Aotea II left Timaru on June 6, on what was expected to be a 50-day mission to retrieve 15 Kiwi fisherman from the San Aspiring in the Southern Atlantic Ocean after Covid-19 left them with no other viable way to get home.

Prior to departure, Sanford deep water fleet manager Darryn Shaw said Covid-19 had made it difficult to get people out of the Falkland Islands with just one flight a week going to the United Kingdom. Crew would usually fly back to New Zealand via South America but border closures had prevented that. The option of flying crew back via the UK was ruled out due to the risk of exposing crew to Covid-19 and the need for lengthy quarantine measures, Shaw said.

Many of the crew, who had been fishing for toothfish, have already been at sea and away from their families for almost six months.

Skipper Jon Bennett, of Nelson, was in charge of the voyage to collect the fishermen.

The experienced skipper faced challenges, including a delayed departure and big swells in the first few days which forced them to change course, during the voyage which took them down around Cape Horn. He expected the homeward journey would take longer than the trip to collect the fishermen.

MacMillan said Bennett remained with a fresh crew aboard the San Aspiring and skipper Shane Cottle is now in charge of bringing the San Aotea back to Timaru.

The vessel was expected to reach the New Zealand coast in just over a week, she said.

“It’s going quite well. The weather has been alright, and they are all happy at the moment.

“The crew have had better than usual weather for this time of year and have made good progress and skipper Shane Cottle says they are all doing well.” (Source: Timaru Herald)

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