Skip to content

Port of Prince Rupert currently under no orders to watch for coronavirus spread to northern B.C.

No protocols, crew disembarkation rules for PRPA despite coronavirus freight, cruise ship fears.
China Ocean Shipping’s (COSCO) Antwerp unloads at the Port of Prince Rupert. Currently the port is under no travel restrictions or protocols to prevent any possible transmission of the coronavirus from international ships.

While ships are being denied access or being quarantined amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Port of Prince Rupert (PRPA) has not been advised to take any precautionary measures.

“The Prince Rupert Port Authority will be notified by Canadian authorities should any travel restrictions or protocols be imposed on the international transportation sector. At this time, PRPA has yet to receive any advisories related to coronavirus,” Monika Coté, manager of corporate communications with the Prince Rupert Port Authority, stated in response to a request by The Northern View.

“Transport Canada works in concert with multiple federal agencies to clear vessels prior to arrival in Canadian ports.”

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the global shipping body representing 80 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet, said in a press release issued in late January, it is advising its membership to take steps that limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The instructions reflect advice given from the World Health Organisation (WHO), who stated that if certain measures are taken, there should be no “unnecessary restrictions of international traffic”, meaning ports and global shipping can continue to operate.

“The shipping industry will always prioritise the health of our crew and members of the public above all else. We have recommended that all our members across the world follow the WHO measures. As an industry, we fully understand the importance of playing our role in halting the spread of viruses,” Guy Platten, the secretary general of ICS, said.

“By implementing the measures in their entirety, we are avoiding the needless closure of any port. Shipping can continue to be the conduit for 90 per cent of world trade, ensuring the steady supply of medicine, food and fuel for consumers worldwide. We are thankful that the WHO has avoided a knee-jerk reaction, which would do nobody any favours.”

ICS advised ship owners to conduct exit screening at ports in affected areas; implement health information programs; collaborate with public health authorities and adhere to WHO guidelines.

“The trade body has urged all members to fully adopt the guidelines. Doing so avoids the unnecessary closure of ports, that facilitate 90 per cent of global trade, including the transportation of medicines that underpin the health industry, as well as food and fuel supplies,” it stated in its release.

“Should the WHO recommendations change with the closure of specific ports for medical reasons, we would recommend that the port in question and shipowners follow this advice. ICS will continue to keep a close watch on the situation and will notify its members of developments.”

In a report issued by Ship Technology, the coronavirus outbreak is heavily impacting the Chinese shipping industry. Chinese ships represent a large number of calls at the Port of Prince Rupert each year.

Several container depots in Shanghai, which is the busiest port in the world, were closed until Feb. 10 and restrictions were placed on crews.

“Crew disembarking has been completely restricted at all ports. Any vessels berthing at Tianjin, Dalian and Xiamen ports are required to provide a health declaration before berthing,” the report states.

While there are no cruise ships scheduled to dock in Prince Rupert until May 24, 2020 — the Pacific Cruise Line’s Pacific Princess — Canadians stranded on a quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have been told they will be flying home to Canada today (Thursday, Feb. 20).

As many as 255 Canadians are on the Diamond Princess, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for at least 10 days. So far, 355 people have been infected, including 15 from Canada.

The largest number of cases outside China is among passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Japanese Health Ministry has tested 1,723 people among the 3,700 initially on board, and 454 have tested positive.

— With files from the Canadian Press