A special New South Wales (NSW) commission of inquiry is to be set up to investigate events surrounding the ‘Ruby Princess’ recent visit to Australia during the COVID-19 crisis.
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) is to appoint barrister, Bret Walker SC, to head up the inquiry. The commission will report back to the Government in three to four months time.
“It is important that answers are provided quickly for the people of NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said. “As I have said before, we will leave no stone unturned until we find out exactly what happened.”
Walker will be given the powers of a special commissioner to examine all matters involving the cruise ship, including its departure and arrival, and the actions of all agencies and parties involved.
“Discussions with the Police Commissioner and the State Coroner have made clear to me their expected investigation timelines, and I have decided that the quickest path to answers is through a powerful and independent inquiry,” Ms Berejiklian explained.
In addition, the NSW Police and the State Coroner will continue their respective investigations (see ICSI News 14/04/20).
Later, the NSW Police confirmed that ‘Ruby Princess’ left Port Kembla on 23rd April. She is bound for Manila, according to AIS tracking websites.
The police force also said it had worked closely with Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, NSW Health, Aspen Medical, Princess Cruises and government officials from many overseas jurisdictions to ensure the safe movement and eventual return of the crew to their countries of origin.
Officers from Marine Area Command, assisted by Transport for NSW, NSW Health and the Australian Defence Force co-ordinated the disembarkation of 368 Filipino nationals from the cruise ship at Port Kembla on the day she left.
Eleven crew members, who tested positive to COVID-19, were taken to NSW Health-managed hotels to enter quarantine.
Over the previous three days, 542 crew members were escorted from the ship to be repatriated to their home countries, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Republic of North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, UK and US.
These also included 33 who were taken to NSW Health-managed hotels to be cared for in isolation until they can be medically cleared.