Fears over armed guards take-up as Delta variant hits floating armouries
MNG Maritime warns that shipowners may see going unprotected as a lesser risk as Covid-19 mutation spreads
|UK shipowner MNG Maritime has warned that vessel operators may be reluctant to take armed guards on board as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads on floating armouries.|
Shipping sources have told TradeWinds that outbreaks are now spreading on the vessels that house anti-piracy security personnel in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
One source said: “An outbreak like this will influence the presence of armed guards on board merchant shipping in the Indian ocean region.”
UK company MNG has two ships in the region: the MNG Pembroke in the Gulf of Oman and MNG Captain James Cook in the Red Sea.
Mark Gray, MNG’s founder and co-director, told TradeWinds there were a “good handful of cases” on both armouries.
Eight cases previously
The company had only experienced eight positive cases since the pandemic began in spring 2020. But then the Delta variant hit.
“About a week ago, we had a guy we were about to embark on a ship who tested positive,” Gray said.
The guard had been on the platform for three weeks and could only have caught it on board, he added.
The company immediately tested the people he had shared a cabin with.
“And, funny old thing, everybody in the cabin was positive,” Gray said.
Isolation taking place
MNG is a UK-government approved Covid-19 test centre and is now testing everybody before they join the vessels, using its own PCR machines.
Infected personnel have been isolated and segregated.
“It is obviously affecting our operations. We have an isolated and segregated ship that we haven’t had before,” Gray added.
He said 98% of positive cases are asymptomatic and do not show up using thermal cameras fitted on board.
“We are operating okay. By this weekend, I will be able to say with some certainty we are only putting clean people on client ships,” the former UK Marine colonel said.
MNG’s clients are security companies who then place guards on commercial vessels.
These companies have to replace personnel if MNG informs them of a positive test.
“Those companies have got enough guards at the moment to substitute,” Gray said. “If I tell them four days before, they’ve got enough time to do something about it.”
But there is a potential problem if they don’t have an immediate substitute.
“I know the other platforms have got it [Covid-19] too. Our fear is that the clients’ ships will lose confidence in their ability to take clean guards from floating armouries and adjudge it a better risk to go unprotected, which I believe is a mistake,” Gray said.
Another armoury owner, Dubai’s Sinbad Navigation, told TradeWinds that it has no cases of coronavirus on its vessels.
“We have strict Covid-19 prevention protocols on board,” the company added.
* LSS-SAPU utilises Sinbad platforms only, which are covid free and operate as usual. Covid procedures are available upon request. The safety of our personnel will always be our No1 concern.