Princess Cruises has moved to refute suggestions the Ruby Princess did not update documents to show how many passengers had signs of illness when she docked on her last cruise to Sydney in March.
A reporting system on the vessel, which was accessible to all authorities, was updated at 7.21 pm on the night before her docking, and it showed 128 people were showing signs of illness.
“The information supplied by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment in an answer to a question on notice shows that the ship updated the Maritime Arrival Reporting System (MARS) at 7.21pm on March 18, which was seven hours prior to the ship berthing at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. It reported that 128 people on board had reported illness,” said a Princess Statement.
A previous report, submitted at 8.54am on March 18, showed 110 people onboard were sick or showed signs of sickness.
At the special inquiry into how 2,700 Ruby Princess passengers were allowed to disembark without screening was told last week the ship’s doctor had not sent an updated health report to the shore because she had too much to do.
Said Princess in their statement: “As the answer to the question on notice confirmed, in the case of NSW, relevant health officials have direct access to information contained in MARS submissions including vessel pre-arrival and human health reports.
“Princess Cruises has noted the information given to the Senate committee because it shows that the ship had continued to update the official MARS health status of the ship. It also shows that an increase in the number of passengers and crew who were ill had been reported to the official human health reporting mechanism.”
The significance of the figures, according to reports of how the protocols work in NSW, is that if there are less than one per cent of passengers reported sick, the vessel is considered low risk. At 128 passengers ill, the vessel was over 3 per cent and all passengers should have been checked.
The move came after the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, expressed concern after NSW Health Epidemiologist Kelly-Ann Ressler wept after being questioned about the procedures used on the day the ship docked.
Ms Ressler said: ““All I can say is that I’m very sorry it turned out the way it did. It was not our intention. Myself and my colleagues at the public health unit were working very hard on this. We did what we could. And if we could do it again, it would be very different.”
The PM asked the inquiry chairman Bret Walker SC to “reflect” on his questioning of the health official.
Lawyers for Carnival Cruises reportedly told the inquiry they wished to ask Ms Ressler whether she had access to the updated information.
Today’s hearing was also told the Austrian Border Force knew of the sick passengers on the ship.
Cruise line agent Dobrila Tokovic said she met three ABF officers at Circular Quay to discuss quarantined passengers.
“They asked me about the people in isolation, they were aware of them already,” Ms Tokovic told the inquiry, adding the officers were wearing protective clothing.