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Four seafarers in isolation over Covid-19 concerns, though initial tests are negative

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Four Filipino seafarers are currently in isolation at the Retreat Centre in Gibraltar over Covid-19 concerns after their fellow crewmen tested positive for the virus when their ship arrived in Algeciras yesterday.

The four crewmen were disembarked from the chemical carrier Samus Swan as it sailed to the Spanish port and have since been tested in Gibraltar, where the results proved negative.

They were due to fly from Gibraltar because they did not possess the necessary visas to enter Spain.

But given the developments in Algeciras, public health authorities in Gibraltar opted for caution and will require the four seafarers to remain in isolation for several days, after which they will be tested again.

The four disembarked from their ship outside British Gibraltar territorial waters during an off-port limits transfer on Monday as the vessel approached the Bay of Gibraltar bound for the Spanish port.

“As they did not have Schengen visas, four of the crew of Samus Swan opted to come ashore in Gibraltar via an agent’s boat whilst the ship sailed on to Algeciras,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place told the Chronicle. 

“The four crewmen disembarked the ship whilst it was outside BGTW.”

The spokesman said the Gibraltar Port Authority was alerted to the possibility that some crewmen on the ship had tested positive for the virus by the ship’s agent, which had arranged the transfer of the men and accommodation in Gibraltar pending their departure.

Prior to disembarking, the vessel had submitted medical declarations to the GPA stating none of its crew were ill, the spokesman added.

On receiving the information from the ship’s agent, the GPA triggered public health protocols and the men were placed in isolation, with additional steps taken to trace anyone they may have come into contact with.

“The four men have been tested and the tests showed no positive results,” the spokesman said.

“However, as other crew members of Samus Swan have been tested by the Spanish authorities and found to be positive, it was been decided that the four men would be isolated at the Retreat Centre for the next few days and, during this time, they will be tested again.”

The Malta-flag Samus Swan is currently berthed in the Isla Verde Exterior terminal in the Port of Algeciras, where Spanish officials said seven out of nine crewmen had tested positive for the virus.

The tests were carried out by the crew itself and relied on pin-prick tests, the reliability of which has been questioned by health authorities around the world.

The ship arrived in the Spanish port from Nigeria and Spanish authorities have ordered that its crew must remain on board pending the results of further confirmatory tests conducted by Spanish health authorities.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the reason why the seafarers were disembarked in Gibraltar. It also adds further details about the GPA's response.