MILWAUKEE - Crew members aboard the Presque Isle are in quarantine after a COVID outbreak that kept the vessel anchored six miles offshore over the weekend.
The 1,000-foot vessel, one of the largest on the Great Lakes is the first to see a COVID-19 outbreak in the Great Lakes fleet. With a wave from crew members, the Presque Isle tug-barge docked at Port Milwaukee Monday, April 5.
"Crew members were in peril. They needed medical attention and/or quarantine," said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Port director.
Bell Ambulance was on stand-by as crew members were eventually taken to an undisclosed location to quarantine for two weeks.
Tindall-Schlicht said the 22-person crew left Minnesota for Gary, Indiana with 57,000 tons of iron ore. In Gary, the vessel offloaded and two crew members were hospitalized.
"We received a call from the vessel owner that was essentially a plea for help – looking for a nearby Great Lakes port that had the size to accommodate a vessel this large," said Tindall-Schlicht.
Out of the remaining 20 onboard, Tindall-Schlicht said eight tested positive for coronavirus. He said those crew members were kept isolated from others onboard, but the living quarters are tiny and the virus spread.
"Once the crew is safely removed, she will undergo a full bio-wash, interiorly," said Tindall-Schlicht. "Then a new crew will enter and return the vessel to service as soon as possible."
The thousand-foot vessel drew onlookers along the shore.
These workers had already planned to stay aboard for months. The shipping season only just began a few weeks ago and we are told they did not expect to set foot on land for quite some time.