Carnival Cruises, which own the Ruby Princess ship that docked in Sydney mid-March despite having a number of COVID-19 cases on board, has begged authorities to allow the ship to return to Australia on humanitarian grounds.
Releasing a plea on Tuesday, President of Carnival Australia, Sture Myrmell called on Federal and State governments to allow the repatriation of crew currently on board who were not needed to run the ship efficiently. To date, cruise ships remain a leading source of infections in New South Wales.
On Sunday, three sick crew members on-board the cruise ship were rescued and rushed to Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital after suffering from respiratory symptoms.
Since the rescue, Carnival says they want to send home any crew member who is not required for the safe running of the ship.
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“Being able to send home those crew members who are not required for the safe operation of the ship is the right thing to do both from a humanitarian point of view and Australia’s international standing as a maritime nation that looks after foreign nationals in its care,” Mr Myrmell said.
“We are particularly concerned that a humanitarian approach should be taken in relation to the crew on Ruby Princess, which has left NSW territorial waters as demanded by the NSW Government.”
Mr Myrmell said their plea comes after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian put a ban on all cruise ships docking in the state. The ban was in response to Ruby Princess being allowed to dock in Circular Quay on March 19, 2020, despite passengers on board showing signs of COVID-19, and 2700 passengers leaving the ship.
The decision was dubbed a “disaster” with more than 400 passengers from the liner falling ill since leaving the ship.
Mr Myrmell said he hopes that despite what happened in March, it is “not safe” to simply allow the ship to remain stranded at sea with potentially unwell crew members on board
“We remain concerned that it is not safe for the ship to sail away from Australia while there are crew members on board who are ill,” he wrote in the statement.
“While illness on board has been reduced due to strong health management, the ship needs to remain within reach of Australia to access healthcare services if an urgent need arises.
“Australia has maritime obligations to protect the welfare of seafarers and as such we need to care for foreign nationals as we would expect other nations to care for Australians in similar circumstances abroad.
“Repatriation of Ruby Princess’s crew would be an important step in upholding Australia’s reputation as a caring maritime nation.”