Philippine Coast Guard to investigate cargo ship crew for alleged violations of Coronavirus quarantine protocol

Amar Meray T (later renamed Harmony 6)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has ordered the investigation of a Panama-flagged cargo vessel after its captain allegedly declared false information of its port clearance details amid intensified maritime security measures against the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

According to the initial report, the bulk carrier Harmony 6 arrived in Changzhou, China on February 13, 2020, and left the port on February 18, 2020.

Scheduled to have its next port call at the Port of Poro Point in La Union province, Philippines, the crew of the vessel allegedly turned off its AIS transponder from February 19, 2020, until its arrival in Philippine waters on Sunday, February 23.

Upon Harmony 6‘s arrival, captain Luu Van Loi, a Vietnamese national, declared that the vessel left China on February 10 instead of February 18, in order to fit into the 14-day quarantine period being strictly implemented in all major ports in the Philippines as a security measure against COVID-19.

The 14-day quarantine period dictates that Harmony 6 and other vessels that came from any country with reported cases of COVID-19 shall have a 14-day period from its date of departure to its arrival in Philippine waters before the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) conducts a health inspection of its crew as a prerequisite for the issuance of port clearance.

However, due to the captain’s misrepresentation of the date of the vessel’s departure from China, the BOQ team ended up conducting the health inspection among the 18 Vietnamese and five Indian crew in just six days instead of the required 14 days of the mandated quarantine period.

Through proactive surveillance, the coast guard, with assistance from the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), was able to alert the port state control group in La Union about the alleged misrepresentation and the vessel’s AIS being switched off. The alert was sent a few hours after the BOQ conducted the health inspection of the crew on Monday, February 24.

Harmony 6 was then declared under temporary detention at the Poro Point anchorage area while the investigation into the alleged violations is ongoing.

The coast guard has confirmed that it will coordinate with the BOQ to identify possible criminal charges if the captain and crew of Harmony 6 will be found guilty of the violations.

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