Icelandic Seamen’s Union SSÍ has criticised the owners of freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson ÍS-270 for their treatment of crewmen when it became apparent that there was an outbreak of Covid-19 on board.
According to Sjómannasamband Íslands (SSÍ), the Westfjords regional health authority requested that the trawler be recalled once it was suspected that there was Covid-19 on board, so that crew members could be screened, but the operating company declined to acquiesce to repeated requests – with the result that the majority of crew appear to have been infected.
‘At the beginning of the pandemic, organisations representing crews and vessel operators sent recommendations to companies and crewmen concerning how to react to an infection on board. These were and are completely clear,’ SSÍ stated.
‘This company appears to have ignored the guidelines completely and kept the ship at sea even when one crewman after another was falling sick.In this instance the company appears to have put financial gain ahead of the welfare of its crew. SSÍ condemns this disregard that the company has shown its crew by carrying on fishing despite the level of illness on board.’
Fishing company Hraðfrystihús-Gunnvör comfirmed in a statement that the majority of the crew of Júlíus Geirmundsson had tested positive for Covid-19.
By then the trawler had been at sea for three weeks and called in port to bunker, and the opportunity was taken to screen crew, as a number of them had shown flu-like symptoms. At that point, none of the crew left the ship, which returned to fishing. Júlíus Geirmundsson was not recalled until health authorities confirmed the positive tests.
‘Nobody on board appears to be seriously ill. The company will decide on the next steps in full co-operation with the Westfjords health authority,’ Hraðfrystihús-Gunnvör stated.