The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has criticised Hurtigruten for deviating from health and safety policy and regulations in the midst of the pandemic.
It said in a report that Hurtigruten failed to announce or log both suspicion and subsequent confirmation of the Corona virus on board ‘Roald Amundsen’ last month, even though some crew members were ill more than a week before alarms were sounded on 31st July.
‘Roald Amundsen’ is currently berthed in Tromsø after the COVID-19 outbreak on board.
“There’s a demand to document such things … you can’t choose not to report it,” Dag Inge Aarhus, NMA communications director, told the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after releasing the report. “They have to do something about this.”
NMA launched an investigation into the Corona outbreak on board ‘Roald Amundsen’ last month that ended up infecting 29 passengers and 42 crew members.
Most of the crew members were Filippinos, and the authority said that some ‘were sick’ and lying in the ship’s on board hospital on 21st July, during the first of two cruises between Tromsø and Svalbard.
Their illnesses were not logged in the ship’s logbook, nor was any reference to Covid-19. “When the outbreak became a fact, it wasn’t logged either,” the NMA said in the report.
The NMA’s report said that ship’s doctors are obligated to inform the ship’s Master of all Covid-19 cases or suspicion of them on board. In turn, the Master “shall inform the company” immediately. That line of communication “was not followed on board Roald Amundsen,” it was claimed.
The reports claims, after Hurtigruten was accused of trying to cover up Corona infection on board the ’Roald Amundsen’, that the company violated several parts of its own policy, not least its alleged commitment to openness.
In addition, Norwegian police, are investigating whether Hurtigruten also violated Norway’s infection control laws.
The NMA also said that it appeared to be unclear within the company who was responsible for various procedures, who should report to whom, who should evaluate risk and even what the employment arrangements were for the ship’s doctors on board. “Some claim the doctor was employed by (Hurtigruten), others by the ship itself,” the report said, adding that a risk evaluation was not carried out before cruises resumed in July.
Hurtigruten’s “reporting culture … does not seem to have functioned,” the authority said. Some of its employees had a suspicion that Covid-19 was on board two days before the ship arrived back in Tromsø. Management claimed they had not received “an official report” of the suspicion until it was confirmed on 31st July.
Regardless of any “formal or informal” lines of reporting, “central roles in (Hurtigruten’s) administration did not follow up the suspicion already on 29th July,” the NMA said. That “raises questions about the company’s safety culture” and how well safety policies are embedded in the company.The authority also claimed that “preparedness did not function as it should.” Alarms were raised too late, and even after infection was confirmed, Hurtigruten’s “preparedness organisation” still wasn’t mobilised.
After being criticised for violating its owns policy of openness, Hurtigruten has now published the authority’s report on its own website (external link in Norwegian).
The company, which has publicly apologized over its handling of Corona on board its ships, has until 21st September to respond with a plan for “corrective measures,” and must respond to each allegation of deviations from policy by 24th November.