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Hapag-Lloyd's box ship quarantined at Durban due to coronavirus

GERMAN shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd has confirmed reports that its 2,824 TEU Montpellier has been ordered by the authorities in Durban, South Africa to remain at anchorage for 14 days after two members of the crew tested positive for Covid-19

26 May 2020 - 19:00

GERMAN shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd has confirmed reports that its 2,824 TEU Montpellier has been ordered by the authorities in Durban, South Africa to remain at anchorage for 14 days after two members of the crew tested positive for Covid-19.

Reports of vessels being put into quarantine highlight the challenges ports around the world are facing in combatting the coronavirus.



The German carrier said the Montpellier was deployed on Hapag Lloyd's Middle East India Africa Express (MIAX) service, and arrived in Durban on May 13 from Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean.



With cargo operations suspended while the vessel is held in the anchorage, the company is being forced to adjust the schedule for berthing in Durban and the subsequent ports of the voyage, reports The Maritime Executive, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.



While Hapag Lloyd reported that it was the first incident of Covid-19 aboard one of the ships it operates, Durban has been challenged by the spread of the virus since March. A few days before the Montpellier was detained due to the virus, the local media in Durban was reporting that medical personnel had been dispatched to conduct Covid-19 tests on the crew of a bulker in the anchorage outside Durban.



In March, Durban also dealt with the return of MSC Cruises' ship the MSC Orchestra, which had sailed from the port just prior to the global suspension of cruise operations. At first the government discussed quarantining the passengers but instead let them disembark after a health screening.



Durban's Minister of Health confirmed nearly two-weeks later that two of the more than 2,800 passengers tested positive for Covid-19, launching a contact tracing effort in South Africa.



With its ranking in the shipping industry being challenged by competitors in the region, Durban now faces the further challenge of managing operations during the Covid-19 crisis. The port was already working to deal with heavy congestion when the virus reached South Africa with the first clusters in Johannesburg and Durban.



Cargo operations were briefly impacted in late March and early April with a total lockdown except for essential cargo when South Africa enacted its first measures to contain the virus. The regulations were quickly relaxed with the government saying the rules did not apply to the 'transportation of cargo from ports of entry to their intended destination, on condition that necessary precautions have been taken to sanitize and disinfect such cargo.'



In recent days, one of the local newspapers The Mercury reported that the port was struggling with heavy congestion and a backlog of cargo in the terminals, while with ships blanking sailings the number of empty containers is on the increase on the docks. The virus is compounding the port's operating inefficiencies while a task force of local businesses is seeking ways to improve traffic flows and operations in the port.



With more than 30 cargo ships and tankers reported in port and others awaiting entry into Durban, the shipping lines are dependent on the port maintaining operations despite the challenges of the coronavirus and continuing the flow of goods through the region.


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