Captain’s Licence Revoked Following COVID-19 Outbreak at Sea

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Sveinn Geir Arnarsson, captain of freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson, pleaded guilty when the Westfjords Police Chief’s case against him was heard in the Westfjords District Court last week, Vísir reported. Sveinn has been ordered to pay a fine of ISK 750,000 ($5,800/€4,800) and his captain’s licence has been suspended for a period of four months.

Twenty-two of the vessel’s 25 crew members contracted COVID-19 while at sea last October. The ship did not return to harbour for three weeks despite the outbreak on board. The crew later called for the captain’s resignation. Three months since the incident, some of the ship’s crew are still unable to work due to COVID-19 complications.

Sveinn was charged with violating the second paragraph of Article 34 of the Fishermen’s Act, which states: “If there is reason to believe that the crew member is suffering from a disease that poses a danger to other people on the ship, the captain shall have the patient transported ashore if it is not possible to protect against the risk of infection on the ship.”

Five labour unions also pressed charges against the captain following the incident.

Encouraging Women to Become Marine Engineers, Ship Captains

Associated Icelandic Ports, or Faxaports, the company that manages a number of major ports in Reykjavík and West Iceland, has signed a contract with the Technical College in which both parties have agreed to take concrete steps towards establishing gender equity within the fields of marine engineering and navigation.

Reykjavík’s Technical College currently offers marine captain, master of ships, and marine engineering study programmes. Faxaports is the largest port company in Iceland, “the main gateway for import to Iceland and export from the country,” as director Gísli Gíslason told, and  “…handles 100,000 tons of fish, 330,000 TEU and 190,000 cruise passengers” per year. Both parties see the establishment of gender parity in the marine industry as being in their mutual interest and have committed to work together to reach this goal.

Among other things, Faxaport will make jobs in its harbour facilities more accessible to women. It will hire two women studying ship captaincy to work in its ports during the summer months each year, which will give them practical, hands-on training and experience in their chosen fields and make efforts to find summer work for women students of marine engineering in its facilities.

The Technical College will make concerted efforts to encourage women to enter marine industry study programs and will assist with education, retraining, and professional development in marine engineering and ship captaincy among Faxaport’s current staff. Additionally, Faxaport and the Technical College will establish an award to recognise a woman, or women, who are studying in a marine-related study programme.

In so doing, both parties hope to make marine captaincy and engineering “more accessible and interesting to women.”