Massive harbour operation to send 1300 crew home
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A major police operation is underway in Sydney Harbour to move crew between cruise ships before they leave Australian waters.
In the largest maritime operation ever undertaken in the harbour, NSW Police and the Port Authority are moving at least 1300 crew members between five cruise ships today.
The cruise ships and government have been locked in a stalemate after the vessels were banned from docking due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Five Royal Caribbean cruise liners are involved in the operation.
The ships will be refuelled and restocked with food and medical supplies before they leave the harbour and Australian shores.
Crew members are also being moved between ships based on where their homes are and where the ships are going.
NSW Police said the Spectrum of the Seas anchored at Athol Bay last night and Radiance of the Seas entered the harbour this morning.
"More than 600 crew members, who are foreign nationals, were moved between the two ships in numerous tender operations, before both ships departed NSW waters to return to their home countries just before 2pm," a spokesman said.
The Celebrity Solstice is already in the harbour and will be joined by Voyager of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas this afternoon.
Those ships have 780 crew members on board, including five Australians.
"NSW Police has been instrumental in facilitating the movement of more than 750,000 tonnes of shipping through the Port of Sydney over about a 30-hour period," Marine Area Commander Superintendent Steve Hegarty said.
"It will be the largest peacetime maritime operation undertaken in Sydney Harbour and has relied on the cooperation of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Port Authority of NSW to ensure its success."
It is unclear what will happen with the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which has been linked to 342 cases of COVID-19 since it was controversially allowed to dock in Sydney on March 19.
Eighty-four passengers who were on board the Ovation of the Seas have tested positive to COVID-19 while 39 cases, including five crew, have been linked to the Voyager of the Seas.
Twelve passengers who disembarked the Celebrity Solstice on March 19 have since tested positive to COVID-19.
Some crew members had already been taken off the ships for medical treatment earlier in the week.
Mr Hazzard said such accommodation could still be used overnight for travellers, workers in the local community and those who didn't have access to their usual address - most notably those who lost their homes during the devastating bushfires over the summer.
Originally published as 1300 crew head home as cruise ships depart NSW