Police have launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the docking of Ruby Princess last month.
The NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller launched the investigation to examine the communications, actions, and other circumstances that led to the docking and disembarking of the ship at Sydney Harbour on 19 March according to a statement from NSW Police.
More than 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been linked back to the cruise ship and 11 passengers have since died, according to ABC News.
Commissioner Fuller said his initial assessment of the ship’s actions left questions about whether it followed state and biosecurity rules in relation to COVID-19.
“I’ve examined a number of phone calls between NSW Ambulance, Port Authority of NSW and NSW Police that stemmed from the initial 17-minute triple zero call from the ship to NSW Ambulance on 18 March,” the commissioner said.
“There appears to have been an exceptional amount of effort put in by Ports to determine the true nature of the conditions on board – and even delayed the vessels arrival until they were provided additional information.
“After reviewing the information at hand, the only way I can determine whether our national biosecurity laws or our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
Fuller added that investigators will examine the actions of everyone involved – whether from the cruise company or government agencies.
“This is a complex issue and we will need information from many witnesses to answer all the questions about how this ship ended up docking last month,” he said.
“We are mindful that some of the key information we need will also come from passengers, so I urge those who were on-board to reach out to us – please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.”
The statement said the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the Ruby Princess’ captain and doctors, the crew and passengers; and staff from various Commonwealth and NSW government offices and agencies.
Police have also been advised that up to 200 of the 1,040 crew members remaining on the ship are displaying symptoms, while 16 have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Today police announced Ruby Princess will be berthing in Port Kembla for up to 10 days to allow safer access for medical assessments, treatment or emergency extractions of crew.
The ship will also refuel and stock up on provisions required for her home journey.
A spokesperson from Carnival Australia told Travel Weekly the company has 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,” the spokesperson said.
Featured image credit: iStock.com/imamember