Steam Packet Chief Executive Mark Woodward has refuted several statements made this week by the Director of Public Health Dr Henrietta Ewart.
On Wednesday Dr Ewart appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to give evidence on a number of issues around genomics testing and the border regulations enforced on Steam Packet crew members, she then later appeared alongside the Chief Minister and Health Minister David Ashford at Thursday’s Covid briefing.
In his statement Mr Woodward claims Dr Ewart and the Chief Minister have always known that Manx based crew were not isolating when off duty and that the company did discuss this with Dr Ewart at their meeting earlier this year.
In her evidence to PAC, Dr Ewart said she met with officers from the Steam Packet on January 25 to explore loosening restrictions on crew members which the gov believed to be in place.
However in his email Mr Woodward: ‘First of all, the Isle of Man was still in the circuit breaker lockdown on January 25 2021. She did attend a meeting at the Steam Packet offices, but it was actually on February 3 2021. The meeting had been called following an initial email from the Company on January 19 2021 to discuss the individual isolation requirements for a Manx based Captain who would potentially have to disembark Manannan after taking her to Liverpool for her scheduled dry-docking and then return via Heysham on Ben-my-Chree. It has always been the Company’s understanding that anyone who physically leaves the ship in the UK must isolate when back on the Isle of Man, in accordance with applicable regulations. All our UK based crew have isolated when off-duty on the island.
‘After returning from this trip, the Manx Captain would have had to isolate in a separate property from his family and he was understandably reluctant to do so. The Company contacted the Government specifically to see if there was any way the isolation requirement could be relaxed in this instance. Following several emails between January 19 and January 29, the meeting was called for February 3.’
Mr Woodward added: ‘Ahead of this meeting, on January 21 a newly drafted document had been sent to the Steam Packet and its potential usefulness discussed in the late January emails.
‘This document was entitled “Isle of Man Resident Commercial Sea and Flight Crew – Returning Resident Entry Conditions for Non-Rota off Island Absences for Key Workers” and, at the meeting, was considered specifically in respect of the upcoming dry-dock situation. Incidentally, Dr Ewart made reference to this document at the press briefing on February 18 2021 and said that the Steam Packet’s statement as communicated by Paul Moulton [and Gef’s Sam Turton], namely that staff were not isolating, was not in line with the terms of this “policy document”. This is incorrect. The policy document expressly excludes operational “on-rota” staff movements, stating these are “out of scope”, and so is not at all relevant to staff undertaking normal shift patterns.’
During this week’s Covid briefing, Dr Ewart said that at the meeting she had with the Steam Packet, no one mentioned that the Manx based crew had not been isolating.
However Mr Woodward has also denied this is the case and he claims representatives from the Department of Infrastructure know this to be true.
He said: ‘Steam Packet staff and other attendees at the meeting, which included representatives from DoI, clearly remember this being discussed. It has always been the Company’s understanding, as communicated in various emails to the Government, that Manx based crew who do not leave the ship while undertaking their normal round-trip duties do not need to isolate on return to the island.
‘This fact has never been hidden from anyone. The Chief Minister, Health Minister and the Director of Public Health herself have been in receipt of emails from the Company which clearly state that Manx based crew are able to mix freely in the community while off-duty. The Company has implemented strict protocols on board to mitigate the risk of transmission both between resident and non-resident crew and between crew and passengers.’