The boss of Carnival Australia today appealled “on compassionate and humanitarian grounds” to the NSW Government to allow the crew of the Ruby Princess to land and fly home.

In an emotional plea after NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller hit out at lines for ignoring orders to move ships out of NSW waters, Sture Myrmell, President of Carnival Australia, said: “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.

“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.”

Later, he issued a video in which he expressed sadness at the way the cruise industry was being “demonised” and said he was distressed at the way the Ruby Princess was attracting criticism despite the fact that it followed “to the letter” all NSW protocols before landing.

He said the industry contributes more than $5 billion, supports 20,000 jobs and buys huge quantities of produce. It pays tens of millions of dollars in taxes to state and federal taxes.

He said Carnival staff were bewildered to see ships that have been sailing Australian waters for years ordered from Australia’s waters.

And he maintained it simply wasn’t safe for the Ruby Princess to sail away from medical facilities that might be needed for the safety of the crew.

See the video here:

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller had said nine cruise ships are off the state’s coastline. Three are registered in NSW, but the others are not, and will not be allowed to dock in NSW.

“There are thousands of people potentially on cruise ships off our coast that aren’t members of our state, and if we take them in, that could well flood our system unnecessarily. All the hard work we’ve done could be over,” the Police Commissioner maintained.

The Ruby Princess is believed to be the source of 440 cases of COVID-19 across six states and two territories. There have been five deaths.

Ruby Princess crew disembarked with influenza like symptoms
Ruby Princess crew disembarked with influenza like symptoms

Some 2,650 passengers were allowed to leave when she docked on March 19, even though 13 passengers were being tested.  It has since been accepted that it was a mistake by Border Protection and NSW Health, each of whom blames the other for the blunder.

Either way, some 1,100 crew from 51 nations remain on the ship – some of whom are sick and cannot get proper treatment.  Mr Fuller’s order could mean the ship returns to America.

Only three were disembarked on Sunday with “respiratory symptoms”.  They were taken to hospital but no-one is saying what was wrong with them.

Mr Myrmell said the line was concerned about sick members of the crew on board the ship, who may not be able to reach medical services while sailing.

“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.

“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.”

Mr Myrmell revealed Carnival Australia is participating in high level federal and state discussions with the aim of enabling the repatriation of the Ruby Princes crew.

He added: “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.”

Mr Myrmell’s bid to convince Australia that it would be shamed if it did not behave in a humane way towards the crew – who are innocents caught in the middle of this affair – comes as cruise lines stand up for passengers for the first time.

The head of Holland America, who has two ships in the Panama Canal with sick and elderly passengers – four of whom have died – has also hit out at the inhumane treatment dolled out to the ships over weeks in South America.

Not one country would let them land and now the passengers, including 131 Australians, are sailing for Florida.

Cruise Lines International Association MD Joel Katz wrote in a column: “Around the world right now, cruise lines and CLIA are battling on behalf of our passengers and crew. Not only are we fighting against COVID-19, we’re also dealing with fear and knee-jerk reactions.”

He added: “Whatever the cost, we can’t lose sight of the most important factor when making decisions on the fate of cruise passengers or crew – we’re dealing with people, who deserve the same care and respect as others.”