Five unions are joining forces to press charged against a captain and fishing company for keeping a crew of 25 at sea for three weeks despite a COVID-19 outbreak on board, RÚV reports. Twenty-three of the 25 crew members became infected by the novel coronavirus in the outbreak, many developing serious symptoms. The ship stayed out at sea for several weeks contrary to guidelines from authorities and many ill crew members kept working.
The five unions are pressing charges against the captain of the freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson, on which the incident occurred, as well as against the fishing company that runs the ship, Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör. The unions are also asking the Westfjords District Court to order a so-called “maritime inquiry” (sjópróf), a type of formal investigation conducted on incidents at sea. The purpose of such an inquiry is to determine the causes of the event in question and whether the shipowner, captain, or crew were criminally liable.
“This is really a request for a police investigation of the case to the Westfjords Chief of Police and a request to the District Court to conduct a maritime inquiry on the case to find out what really happened on board and why and if necessary who is responsible,” stated Valmundur Valmundsson, chairman of one of the unions.
Karl Ingi Vilbergsson, Chief of Westfjords Police, stated yesterday that his aim was to finish interviewing all general crew members that day. The investigation’s next steps would be decided after that. He told reporters: “This is a grave matter and I don’t think we can live with it any other way than by getting to the bottom of it.”
The five unions are Verkalýðsfélag Vestfirðinga, Sjómannafélag Íslands, Félag skippersmanna, Félag vélstjóra og máltæknimanna, and Sjómannasamband Íslands.
The CEO of Hraðfyrstihúsið Gunnvör has responded to the incident, with a statement and interview that have been called contradictory.