INTERNATIONAL Transport Workers Federation Australia coordinator Dean Summers has called for more support to the crew of the Ruby Princess.

The ship is currently docked at Port Kembla, having earlier generated intense controversy after people with coronavirus disembarked the ship in Sydney and spread the disease in the community.

Debate has since raged over the respective roles of New South Wales Health and the Australian Border Force, with police now indicating they plan to investigate the operations of the ship as well.

Mr Summers told Daily Cargo News that of the crew of 1056, 200 people had respiratory conditions and eight people were medically confined to their cabins with chronic respiratory problems.

Another seven were hospitalised.

Agents from Aspen Medical have since boarded the ship to conduct tests.

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Mr Summers said while testing was a good thing, there should be no exceptions.

“We maintain everybody should be tested, I don’t know anyone in the country who’d argue that,” he said.

Mr Summers said he had established “solid contact” with some of the crew, which is made up predominantly of Filipinos and Indonesians, together with some from the US, Canada, the UK, Serbia and Asia.

He noted some crew members had been upset by the level of negativity directed towards them, particularly on social media.

Sources who spoke with Daily Cargo News talked about spouses in the Philippines concerned for their loved ones on board the ship who were affected by coronavirus.

Australian Border Force Commisssioner Michael Outram recently confirmed he had denied requests by cruise ship operators to remain in Australian waters.

“I advised them that their requests were all denied. And as a result, they were all to direct their vessels to leave Australian waters as soon as they had been able to refuel and resupply,” Commissioner Outram said.

“Now, the key point here is, of course, had those crew become sick, it’s a big strain on the Australian health system, and that’s what this is all about.”

This approach has been questioned, however, with Port of Brisbane CEO Roy Cummins among those suggesting cruise ships could be moved to deep water anchorages to wait out the crisis, keeping crew members close to emergency health services if required.

Commissioner Outram has also acknowledged and some cruise ship operators, particularly Royal Caribbean and Carnival for their cooperation in “working hard to get their ships gone” by the weekend.

“There will be, of course, a couple of ships left in Australia, you’d appreciate that, and the Ruby Princess being one of those in [NSW} and the Artania over there in Perth.”

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