A.P. Møller-Mærsk has confirmed that crew members have been evacuated from the Gjertrud Maersk and hospitalized in Ningbo, China, with suspected cases of the coronavirus.
Christian Kjærgaard-Winther, Maersk senior press officer in Denmark, said in an email to American Shipper that “a number of our seafarers” on the container ship were suspected of having COVID-19 on Wednesday and were evacuated from the ship on Thursday and taken ashore for medical care.
If confirmed, these would be the first reported cases of the coronavirus on board a container ship. Maersk is the world’s largest ocean shipping company.
“We are still awaiting the official report from authorities as well as the hospital,” Kjærgaard-Winther said. “As per our established protocols, the seafarers were isolated on the vessel when symptoms appeared and we are providing medical treatment based on input from our medical advisers.”
He said Maersk was working with government and port authorities in Ningbo.
The Danish-flagged Gjertrud has a capacity of 9,074 twenty-foot equivalent units.
“The vessel was awaiting phasing into our network and currently idle at the quayside in Ningbo, China,” Kjærgaard-Winther said. “Extra precaution measures will be taken for crew replacement and sanitations will be implemented.”
The Gjertrud reportedly arrived at Ningbo from Hong Kong.
In a coronavirus update posted Thursday, Vincent Clerc, CEO of Maersk Ocean and Logistics, said measures taken by governments and companies to mitigate the crisis will result in an economic slowdown and that conversations with customers “confirm our expectation of lower volume demand in the coming weeks.”
Clerc said, “We are actively preparing our network to match a reduced demand level. We believe that it is our responsibility to rightsize in order to protect our cost position, both to be able to weather these storms but importantly also to ensure that you have a partner who cares for the integrity of your supply chain as we look to lifting the world out of this crisis.”