Sydney Morning Herald

Fears thousands of crew stuck on cruise ships off Sydney coast

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 25/03/2020 08:30:00 Matt O'Sullivan

Cruise ship passengers disembark from the Princess Cruises owned Ruby Princess at Circular Quay in Sydney, Thursday, March 19, 2020. © AAP Image/Dean LewinsCruise ship passengers disembark from the Princess Cruises owned Ruby Princess at Circular Quay in Sydney, Thursday, March 19, 2020. The fate of thousands of crew stuck aboard eight cruise ships off the coast between Sydney and Wollongong is shrouded in uncertainty as companies struggle to devise a plan for them.

The coronavirus infected Ruby Princess and two other passenger ships owned by cruise company Carnival - the Sea Princess and Carnival Spirit - have been circling off the coast from Sydney for days after passengers disembarked, along with the Royal Caribbean-owned Celebrity Solstice.

The uncertainty facing the crews comes as the Australian Border Force blamed NSW Health for allowing passengers who had contracted coronavirus to walk off the Ruby Princess when it docked at Circular Quay last Thursday.

NSW Labor deputy leader Yasmin Catley said the state government and cruise companies needed to reveal how many crew were stuck on the ships and what the plans were for them.

"We need to know if there is a virus on board and how it's being tracked," she said. "Are they taking them off and are they going into isolation? We are not getting any answers."

Pictures: Coronavirus around the world

In the wake of the Ruby Princess debacle, Ms Catley said it was vital no one was brought ashore from the ships unless they had been tested for coronavirus and cleared.

"If they are positive, then they need to be put in isolation," she said.

Royal Caribbean has three ships - Ovation of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas - sitting off Wollongong's Port Kembla, while the Carnival-owned Carnival Splendor is also there.

Of those ships that have had cases of coronavirus, the Ruby Princess was carrying 1148 crew, Voyager (3504), Ovation (1626) and Celebrity Solstice (1223).

Carnival and Royal Caribbean did not answer questions about how many crew were left aboard. Carnival referred questions to the peak industry association.

a man flying through the air while riding a wave in the ocean: The Ruby Princess Cruise Ship is seen off the coast of Sydney on March 24. © GettyThe Ruby Princess Cruise Ship is seen off the coast of Sydney on March 24. The Cruise Lines International Association said the companies would "determine repatriation arrangements for their crew" as they finalised arrangements for where their ships would lay up.

"Any crew illness would be managed under direction from state health authorities," it said. "The only ships that will remain in Australia while operations are suspended are those that are home-ported here, or where there is agreement that they can lay up in Australia."

But Maritime Union of Australia assistant secretary Paul Garrett said there were likely to be at least 2000 crew members left aboard.

Mr Garrett said further testing of the crews for coronavirus was needed because the risk was that it could have "recycled through the ship and we can't take the chance again after the Ruby Princess".

"[But] if there is someone sick, there is no point leaving them on board to infect everyone else," he said. "They should be brought off ... and given the medical help they need. There are quarantine controls."

a close up of a man wearing a mask: Unidentified female wearing a respiratory mask, with eyes closed. (Pixabay) © Provided by ABC NEWSUnidentified female wearing a respiratory mask, with eyes closed. (Pixabay) NSW Health said all ships were required to report on the health status of their crew, and if any had acute respiratory symptoms, the ship was required to obtain a swab for testing.

"No crew are allowed to disembark until the swab test is clear of COVID-19," a spokesperson said.

In Sydney Harbour, the Royal Caribbean-owned Spectrum of the Seas is anchored off the lower north shore, while Carnival's Pacific Explorer and Sun Princess are berthed at White Bay.

25. maaliskuuta 2020 10:30:00 Categories: - info - belgique RTBF Sydney Morning Herald

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