The Ruby Princess has arrived in Port Kembla, a day after the NSW Police announced a criminal investigation into the handling of the ship’s passengers.
The ship, which still has 1,040 crew members onboard, will be tied up at the port for the next 10 days. Around one fifth of the crew members are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.
The crew will be looked after by Aspen Medical, an emergency medical company which also handled the quarantine of the Diamond Princess.
All crew onboard are isolating in their cabins.
In an astonishing turn of events, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has launched a criminal investigation into the events leading up to the landing of the Ruby Princess – and will hand the file to homicide detectives.
The Commissioner suggested breaches of the bio-security laws, state security laws or even criminal negligence could be faced by Carnival Australia executives – an unprecedented move that could see the company management on trial for an incident which has now led to 11 deaths, hundreds of cases of COVID-19 and extraordinary trauma for passengers.
Legal firms are already maintaining they have been consulted by passengers lining up to support a class action for compensation.
A Carnival Australia spokesman told Cruise Passenger tonight: “We have seen the Police Commissioner’s announcement. In addition to willingly participating in the investigation, Carnival Australia will vigorously respond to any allegations of which there must now be full disclosure and the basis for them.”
In a day of dramatic revelations, The Sunday Telegraph claimed NSW Ports had refused Ruby Princess entry last month after her trip to New Zealand was cut short – but a late night phone call from an unnamed Carnival executive assuring coronavirus was not an issue made them relent.
There was no let up in the consequences flowing from that decision – four more deaths, three in NSW and one in Queensland. Crewmen brought into Port Botany suffering serious symptoms of COVID-19, and the revelation that the vessel is now a virtual hospital ship – cruising slowly off the NSW coast with 200 of the 1,100 crew down with the virus.
And Channel Seven tonight ran an investigation revealing a Federal Department of Agriculture email which showed the department was aware 128 passengers on board the ship during its cruise to New Zealand sere sick, 24 of whom had temperatures above 38 degrees and some of whom were vomiting – the symptoms, according to the program, of COVID-19.
The NSW government is now faced with a humanitarian crisis – the vessel docked in Port Kembla this morning so crew displaying signs of serious illness could be properly treated. But what happens to the remaining 900 is yet to be decided, and they may be forced to sail on.
Former passengers on the Ruby Princess are now being urged to come forward as everyone involved in the last cruise of the stricken vessel may be witnesses in a criminal investigation.
They are being urged to contact Crime Stoppers – 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au.
The ramifications of the investigation – where NSW Health has already admitted they cleared the vessel to land 2,650 passengers last month – are considerable, and will certainly prolong the cruise industry’s suffering for a virus it didn’t create.
Industry heads claim they are being unfairly singled out for a situation they had not control over.
Carnival Australia’s President Sture Myrmell has referred to how the cruise industry is being “demonised” despite 88 years of delivery huge benefits to Australia, including over $5 billion of benefits and jobs.
He maintains the ship followed “every protocol to the letter” before disembarking the passengers.