85 Crewmen on board an American Seafoods vessel have tested positive for the COVID 19 virus. The crew are aboard an Alaska fish catcher processor commercial fishing vessel. The infection has broken out aboard the 272-foot-long American Dynasty. 85 of the 123 crewmen on board have returned positive test results for the COVID 19 virus. One crewman has been hospitalized while the other crewmen are in quarantine.
The American Dynasty is one of six factory trawlers owned by American Seafoods Company. The vessels concentrate their commercial fishing operations in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The vessels also fish for hake off the Oregon and Washington Coast.
American Seafoods’ press releases indicate the crew of the American Dynasty had all been placed in a five-day quarantine and all been tested for the virus before the vessel left for the fishing grounds around May 16, 2020. All crewman reportedly tested negative for the virus at that time. In contrast to American Seafoods preemployment five-day quarantine, other fishing companies have been using a 14-day quarantine procedure.
Trouble arose last Wednesday when one unidentified crew came down with COVID 19 virus symptoms while the vessel was docked in Bellingham. Further testing of the crew netted 85 new positive results from the previously tested crew. This information shows how quickly the virus may spread on a commercial fishing vessel where crew work, live and sleep in constant tight quarters. Last reports indicate the remainder of the American Seafoods crew is now quarantine off of the vessel in Seattle. American Seafoods statement indicates the crew is reportedly being medically monitored. As more information becomes available about the circumstances of the crew, this post will be updated.
Complex maritime laws deal with crewman’s rights to benefits for injuries and infections caused while working vessel’s at sea. As a general rule the vessel owner must pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to a virus contracted as a result of living and working on aboard commercial fishing vessel. Furthermore failure to reasonably provide for the protection of the crew from the virus may give raise to arguments of Jones Act negligence or unseaworthiness under maritime law.