“Obviously it is a more complex plan [than other ships] and we’ve got health considerations,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“Anyone who needs to come off because of health reasons will come off.”
Professor Natalie Klein, a law of the sea expert from the UNSW, said that under the Maritime Labour Convention Australia was required to provide medical assistance to crews equivalent to onshore.
“If Australia can provide medical assistance on board ships, they don’t have to come off and there will be fewer brought into hospital. We can exercise some control about who comes off the vessel.”
International law dictates the ship owner is expected to defray the costs to the NSW health system, Professor Klein said.
Australian Border Force officials and staff from private health company Aspen on Thursday boarded the ship to assess the crew’s health and medical facilities on board, after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton accused the parent company Carnival of “lying” and Premier Gladys Berejiklian said staff on board may have misled NSW Health.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said a statement from Carnival after the Premier’s comments.
“There certainly have been inconsistencies in information coming off the ship,” Commissioner Fuller said on Friday.
“We are getting mixed messages and that’s why we forward-deployed NSW Health and Aspen – to get a better picture of what’s actually going on.”
NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay on Friday called for an independent enquiry into the disaster, saying that the bungled handling of the ship is too wide for a police enquiry.
“It was the responsibility of the NSW government to protect NSW public health. The NSW government was informed that passengers were sick. It failed to screen, test or quarantine 4000 people on that vessel.
“The Ruby Princess disaster has resulted in 600 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, 340 cases in NSW – and tragically seven deaths, which is more than a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Australia,” she said.
As the Ruby Princess awaits its fate, two other Carnival ships – the Pacific Explorer and the Carnival Splendour – have departed for international waters to await further instruction. Five other ships, all Royal Caribbean vessels, will leave on Sunday, ending an impasse between the cruise ship companies and NSW Police that has lasted more than a fortnight.
The ships are expected to enter the harbour on Saturday and Sunday, where crews will be transferred between vessels and then prepare to depart.
NSW on Friday recorded 91 new cases of the potentially deadly virus, bringing the state’s total of confirmed cases to 2389.
Friday was the first day the number of new cases recorded was under 100 since March 21, which NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant said was “pleasing to see”.
The deaths of a Wollongong man and an Albury woman, both in their seventies, on Friday, brought the state’s death toll from coronavirus to 12.
Sally Rawsthorne is a Crime Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.