Western Australia will continue to be exposed to risks from ships arriving from coronavirus hotspots, the maritime union has warned.

The state has been forced to put significant resources into dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak on the Patricia Oldendorff bulk carrier off Port Hedland.

Nine people remain on the ship as essential crew, seven of whom have tested positive.

There are also a dozen crew members in quarantine at the fenced-off Hedland Hotel and 10 of them have tested positive.

None are seriously unwell.

The Maritime Union of Australia says ships are arriving at WA ports from COVID-19 hotspots after as little as six days at sea.

It says vessels should be required to remain at sea for at least 14 days before docking in WA ports.


“The WA government has placed its faith in an unreliable quarantine system leading to the infection of 17 seafarers and a near miss for the people of Port Hedland,” MUA national president Chris Cain said.

“Simply relying on seafarers to quarantine at home in an overseas coronavirus hotspot or asking a ship’s master to declare any sick crew members is not enough.”

WA’s government is investigating what testing protocols were in place when the Patricia Oldendorff departed the Philippines and may seek costs from the vessel operator.

The ship, carrying 20 Filipino nationals and the captain, is anchored eight nautical miles off WA’s northwest coast.

It arrived from Manila on September 16.

Authorities are confident the infected crew will fully recover and the ship, which needs at least 13 fit crew to set sail, will depart by October 10 at the latest.


“Crew members are rapidly getting better,” Premier Mark McGowan said on Thursday.

“There’s at least two that are recovered, two or three more expected to recover. Once they are all fully recovered, the expectation is they’ll go back on the ship and sail her away.”

WA has 22 active cases, including five unrelated to the Patricia Oldendorff.