The prime minister has cautioned people against overreacting to a coronavirus cluster on a live export ship in WA.

Six crew members of the livestock carrier docked in Fremantle have tested positive for the virus.

There are concerns for quarantine officers and port workers who boarded the vessel without knowing the men were infected.

State and federal authorities are now trading barbs over how the ship was allowed to dock and when authorities were notified about illness onboard.

Scott Morrison attempted to cut through the crossfire by arguing the situation was under control.

He also launched a pre-emptive strike against calls to shut down the live export industry during the global pandemic.

“We’ve got the systems in place and they can be managed and they can be protected,” Mr Morrison told Sky News on Wednesday.


“But if we’re going to stop exporting our agricultural products or our resources then that is going to hurt our economy drastically, so I would caution people from getting too far ahead of themselves on this.”

The WA premier has accused the federal government of allowing the ship to berth despite health concerns on board.

The Al Kuwait arrived in Fremantle from the United Arab Emirates after receiving permission from federal authorities to dock.

Six of the ship’s 48 crew tested positive for COVID-19 and have been moved off the ship to a Perth hotel for quarantine.

Premier Mark McGowan said the remaining 42 crew members were “currently well” and would remain onboard the ship to be monitored and undergo health checks.

There are fears more cases will be confirmed in the coming days.


Mr McGowan is angry the federal Department of Agriculture allowed the Al Kuwait to berth, given the ship had lodged a pre-arrival report saying three crew members were sick.

He said it was lucky no one got off the ship but it was unfortunate others had boarded the vessel.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the situation was handled correctly.

“I have asked my department to go back and double check and triple check to make sure that every protocol has been adhered to,” Mr Littleproud said.

“But on the face of it, we believe that every protocol was in line with the COVID protocols that have been put in place.”

The union representing crew members said everybody on board the ship should be tested for coronavirus.