An astonishing “military-style operation” is being considered to test crews for COVID-19 who are currently held off the NSW coast in a standoff between the police and cruise ships industry.
According to today’s Australian newspaper, the plan involves flying doctors in helicopters onto the decks of ships and testing the 8,615 people in board.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller maintains allowing the crews to disembark could “overwhelm” Sydney’s intensive care system.
Cruise industry leaders believe it is a humanitarian and legal issue – Australia, as a maritime nation, is obligated to help the ships in their difficulties.
Cruise Passenger sought comments this morning. Carnival Australia said it had no knowledge or the plan.
According to the newspaper, the police plan is to call on the military for the tests. Once conducted, those infected would be “extracted” and the ships ordered out to sea and back to their ports of origin.
It would be an extremely large operation,” Mr Fuller is quoted as saying.
“If we had to extract 250 or 350 patients that needed a high level of care, we would need to look at portable hospitals, portable triaging, and that’s before you even think about the logistics and security of moving 250 or 350 people.”
Meanwhile, the paper reports a decision by Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram to ban the ships from landing is being appealed by the cruise lines, and a decision is expected within days.
According to the newspaper, the cruise lines have offered compromises of keeping the crews in hotels or taking those fit to travel straight to airports for flights home.
The crews come for 51 nations, mostly in SE Asia. Australians have already been disembarked.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation has demanded the Australian government allow crews to disembarked and be flown home to their countries of residence.
Currently off the NSW. coast are the Ruby Princess, Pacific Explorer, Carnival Splendour, the Ovation of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice and Voyager of the Seas.
The move comes as Carnival, the world’s largest cruise ship operator, seeks a $6 billion cash injection to ride out the crisis. Its share price in America is down 74 per cent.
The cruise operator announced on Tuesday that it intends to raise $3 billion of secured notes and $1.75 billion of convertible notes — both due in three years — as well as $1.25 billion of new shares.