Diamond Princess sister ship virus outbreak off Australia

Ruby Princess, belonging to cruise ship company Princess Cruises. Credit: James D Morgan/Getty Image

Ruby Princess, the sister ship of Diamond Princess, is the centre of yet another coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, after three passengers and one of its 1,148 crew tested positive.

About 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark the ship in Sydney on 19 March.  They were directed to self-isolate after four people on board tested positive. 

Others may have been exposed to the virus with the state health minister asking everyone who was on the cruise to self-quarantine. 

Ruby Princess was allowed to let passengers off despite a federal government ban on cruise ships docking in Australia. 

Its voyage was cut short five days early following government calls for all Australians to return home. While most of the passengers who disembarked were Australian, many were also from the US and other countries.  

The ship’s doctor has conducted 13 tests on board. The ship went to several locations around the Pacific and New Zealand before returning to Sydney.

The two passengers who tested positive were sent to a hospital in Sydney, while another returned to Tasmania before being hospitalised. 

A crew member who tested positive remains on the ship off the coast between Sydney and Wollongong. 

Ruby Princess is operated by the same company that runs Diamond Princess, where 70 crew contracted the virus in February off the coast of Japan, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).   

The ITF intervened to ensure crew, mostly Filipino and Indonesian, were repatriated after extensive negotiations with the company and the Japanese government. 

The ITF and its affiliate, the Seafarers’ Union of Russia (SUR), also sent requests to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to remind its member states and the company of their obligations under the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 for  crew health and safety. 

Meanwhile, Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) on 20 March announced crew and cargo vessels from Singapore would be exempt from its stringent 14-day quarantine. MSQ imposed the quarantine on all commercial vessels from international ports on 15 March. 

The move comes after an outcry from the Freight Trade Alliance and Shipping Australia. MSQ said the exemption was also due to Singapore’s stringent coronavirus precautions and its relatively low level of infection rates.