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Ebola Fears Strike at Port of Baltimore

By MarEx 2014-10-17 08:39:00

A longshoremen's union in Baltimore briefly refused to work a ship from West Africa, as Ebola fears spread further into the transportation industry.

At the Port of Baltimore, International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 delayed loading used vehicles onto a ship bound for West Africa for about 45 minutes out of fear of Ebola being on board. The dockworkers resumed working the ship after clearance was given by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Port officials confirmed that the only trade to West Africa from the port is exported used cars and heavy machinery. No cargo is imported from West Africa at the Port of Baltimore.

Work was scheduled to begin on the Silver Soul, a vessel owned by Dubai-based Sallaum Lines, at 8 a.m. Thursday. It is unclear who ordered the work stoppage. The ship had called in Jacksonville, Fla., prior to Baltimore, with no issues. The roll-on/roll-off ship is bound for Bayonne, N.J., and Boston before returning to Africa. The last time it was in a port outside the United States was more than 21 days ago, which is the incubation period for Ebola.

All ships arriving in U.S. ports must notify the Coast Guard 96 hours in advance of arrival listing their cargo and their last five ports of call. Vessels that have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea are now being flagged. If a crew has experienced a recent death or illness, the Coast Guard will hold the ship off and notify the CDC.

In the past week, several ships with West Africa calls in their last five port visits have entered Baltimore, but none had been in West Africa within the past 21 days.

In August, the International Longshoremen’s Association provided a safety bulletin focusing on Ebola. The document played down the likelihood of a dockworker in the United States contracting the disease — saying that while longshoremen are part of an increasingly global trade, there were only "remote risks" for members not living or working in West Africa, reports the Baltimore Sun.