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Covid precautions lead to 20-hour commute for Chilean salmon workers

A farm technician's temperature is checked. Photo: Salmones Blumar.
A farm technician's temperature is checked. Photo: Salmones Blumar.

Measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Chile mean salmon farm technicians must now make a 20-hour boat trip to sites in the Aysén region instead of taking a flight.

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It is one of a series of precautions taken by the salmon industry, which also makes sure the non-resident personnel from Puerto Montt have tested negative for coronavirus before beginning live-in stints on sites.

The boats used must have a gross registered tonnage (grt) greater than 25 and cannot call at ports on the journey from Puerto Montt to Aysén.

Avoiding contagion

Chile’s biggest salmon farmer, AquaChile, told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that the whole company had been operating in a compartmentalised manner “to avoid sources of contagion among the workers themselves and to have traceability of suspected cases”.

As with other companies, farm technicians are spending longer on site – 21 days – to reduce the number of people coming in and out of the region.

One of the boats Blumar is using to transfer farm technicians from Puerto Montt to Aysen, a journey of at least 20 hours.
One of the boats Blumar is using to transfer farm technicians from Puerto Montt to Aysen, a journey of at least 20 hours.

PCR analysis

Meanwhile, the farming manager of Salmones Blumar, Pedro Pablo Laporte, said that anyone entering the company’s sites in Aysén “must go through a health check (sanitary barrier), where body temperature is measured with an infrared thermometer, and samples are taken for Covid-19 PCR analysis, all this accompanied by elements of hygiene and good practices: soap and water, alcohol gel or 70% denatured alcohol that is available locally”.

Blumar has boats greater than 25 grt to transport between 25 and 35 people per trip, which leave once a week to replace some of shifts in its Aysén salmon farms.

No contact

Francis Lobos, sustainability and corporate affairs manager for Multiexport Foods, said the company’s non-resident workers in the Aysén region were moved in a large vessel used exclusively for farm technicians and suppliers. 

“With this measure, we ensure that there is no contact with other people or locations. As the journey exceeds 20 hours, the ship provides adequate comfort conditions for people,” said Lobos. 

“As a compulsory measure for the trip, the company has arranged, since March 31, that 100% of its own personnel, as well as 100% of workers linked to contractors, must only enter the sites after negative PCR tests for Covid-19 conducted in a local laboratory accredited by the Institute of Public Health. This applies both in the case of non-resident collaborators and in that of residents.”

On Saturday, April 11, Mowi Chile transferred a group of about 50 people by sea from the Kochifas port in Puerto Montt to eight farms located in the Aysén region. The company plans to make two such trips monthly.

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