Cruise Ships Off Australia's Coast Refusing To Leave After Being Ordered Home
A flotilla of cruise ships is "lingering" off the east coast and refusing to return home, even after police ordered the ships to leave Australian waters.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said nine cruise ships are currently off the state's coastline. Three are registered in NSW, but the others are not, and will not be allowed to dock in NSW. Fuller said despite being ordered to return to their port of origin, the ships are refusing to budge, and he has called for them to leave.
"There are thousands of people potentially on cruise ships off our coast that aren't members of our state, and if we take them in, that could well flood our system unnecessarily. All the hard work we've done could be over," Fuller said, citing possible strain on the health system.
"We are in control of the ports... these cruise ships have ports that aren't in Australia, aren't in NSW. The federal government has issued warning notices to return to their port of origin."
NSW has effectively banned cruise ships from disembarking passengers in the state.
It comes as the NSW government continues to cop heat for allowing passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark and return to the community without being ordered into isolation.
On Monday, NSW Health said 189 cases of coronavirus in the state had been linked to the the Ruby Princess, with a further 66 cases from the ship Ovation of the Seas, 26 cases from the Voyager of the Seas, and four from the Celebrity Solstice -- for a total of 285 cases linked to cruise ships, nearly 15 percent of the state's total caseload yesterday.
The issue of cruise ships at sea is one facing many countries worldwide, with fears that allowing passengers to disembark will release the virus into on-shore communities. Many ships across the world remain stranded at sea, with governments reluctant to let them dock.
Fuller said the six ships "lingering" off the NSW coast were registered overseas.
"I've been sending clear messages that it's time to go back to your port of origin. They don't pay taxes in Australia, they don't park their boats in Australia, their primary flags are often in the Caribbean in different islands. It's time to go home," he said.
He said authorities had been supplying the ships with food and fuel, as well as allowing people to be taken to hospitals on-shore if they required medical care. A handful of people had been evacuated off the ships with coronavirus symptoms, as well as another person who had suffered a medical episode, and pregnant women.
"We are receiving people sensibly back into NSW, they get the required healthcare then go into mandatory isolation," Fuller said.
"We will continue to show humanitarian care to those individuals who need it, we'll continue to allow them to have fuel and food, but it's time to go to your port of origin."