Stranded cruise ships give rise to diplomatic woes
The federal government is involved in a "very difficult balancing process", the Foreign Minister says, as it tries to rescue hundreds of Australians from cruise ships overseas, while banning thousands of crew on coronavirus-infected ships off our coast from coming ashore.
Hundreds of Australians are stranded on cruise ships overseas, including the Zaandam, which is stuck at sea with a deadly coronavirus on-board, with the government working to bring them home.
But state governments are telling foreign vessels with sick crew to leave Australia's coast.
In a video statement last night, the president of Carnival Australia said the cruise industry has been "demonised" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Ships once integral to the visitor economy have suddenly been declared unwelcome," he said
The Cruise Line International Association also issued a plea to the government yesterday.
"If allowed, cruise lines will arrange charter flights for their crew or transport aboard their own vessels, but workable arrangements with government are required to make this happen," CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said.
More people were evacuated from ships off the NSW coast on Tuesday night, including from the Ruby Princess.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said people are being evacuated as needed. "I've got to strike a balance … It's not an easy one, I'm dealing with each of these matters personally," he said.
Despite the fact not all crew members are ill and they are isolating sick individuals, Mr Fuller claimed that taking thousands of crew off the vessels would flood the state's health system.
It comes as one maritime lawyer said countries closing their ports could leave ships stranded at sea.
John Kavanagh said Australia is allowed to ban ships from coming into port, but that could leave the vessels with nowhere to go. "There is no place for these ships to go that is home," he said.
Carnival Australia president Sture Myrmell said it was has not been possible for the Ruby Princess to leave NSW, because the ship needed access to healthcare for its workers.
"It simply wasn't safe for Ruby Princess to sail away from Australia and away from healthcare services that might become urgently needed," Mr Myrmell said.
Almost 2700 passengers were allowed to get off the ship without going into mandatory isolation last month, but Mr Myrmell said the ship complied with the rules.
"The ship followed to the letter all of the formal health clearance processes that were active at that time," he said.
Meanwhile, the German ship Artania was yesterday refusing to leave the coast of Western Australia, saying twelve people on-board are too sick to fly home. Premier Mark McGowan urged the federal government to "step up" and force the ship to leave.
"I'd urge the Australian Border Force and the Federal Government to take steps to get the ship away," he said.
The standoff comes as the government worked to rescue hundreds of Australians from cruise ships overseas, including the Zaandam, which is battling a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
"We're working with officials there to seek support for them to be allowed to disembark and to take flights home," Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
Asked why Australia should expect help from other nations while it's blocking foreign crew from coming ashore, she said "this is a very difficult balancing process".
Four people have already died on the Zaandam, with others testing positive for the disease. On Tuesday, US time, President Donald Trump said the ship should be allowed to dock in Florida, saying he was "going to do what's right, not only for us but for humanity".
"They're dying on the ship," he said.
Originally published as Stranded cruise ships give rise to diplomatic woes