A special commission of inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the cruise ship Ruby Princess has completed its investigation, and it has determined that the public health agencies of the government of New South Wales bear primary responsibility for allowing hundreds of COVID-positive passengers to disembark the ship and travel onwards. It broadly exonerated Princess Cruises and the captain of the Ruby Princess of wrongdoing, though it found that Carnival Australia should have provided the ship’s physician with updated guidance on which patients to treat as “suspect cases.”
“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, particularly those who lost loved ones,” said Princess in a statement. “The Commission’s report confirms that none of our people – the Captain, the ship’s doctor, or members of our shore side port agency team – misled public authorities involved in Ruby Princess being permitted to disembark guests on March 19.”
When the Ruby Princess called at Sydney on March 8, NSW Ministry of Health assessed her coronavirus status as “medium risk” based on 170 recorded cases of acute respiratory illness (including known flu) on board. The agency’s inspection team conducted an onboard screening upon the ship’s arrival, and 366 people presented themselves for examination. Four were selected for COVID testing based on their symptoms, and none tested positive.
On March 15, the Ruby Princess altered course and made way to return to Sydney as a consequence of Australia’s newly-enacted cruising ban. The same day, ship’s physician Dr. Ilse von Watzendorf notified NSW Health that it appeared the ship was “in the early phases of an Influenza A outbreak onboard.” Those with symptoms had tested positive for influenza, she advised, indicating that the outbreak was non-COVID-related.
The following day, passenger Anthony Londero checked in to the ship’s medical center with a high fever and “signs of cardiac strain,” and he tested negative for influenza. Onboard COVID testing was not available to determine whether his symptoms were related.
On March 17, the ship’s log for passengers reporting acute respiratory distress showed a “significant spike,” according to the commission. This log was properly communicated to NSW Health, and the agency used it to evaluate the ship’s suitability to dock and disembark. However, based on an outdated definition of a suspected COVID case, NSW Health’s risk assessment panel determined that the ship presented a “low risk” for novel coronavirus.
In its after-action analysis, the commission of inquiry concluded that the panel’s low risk assessment “was a serious and material error” leading to uncontrolled release of COVID-positive passengers. “In light of all the information the Expert Panel had, the decision to assess the risk as ‘low risk’ – meaning, in effect, ‘do nothing’ – is as inexplicable as it is unjustifiable. It was a serious mistake,” the commission wrote.
On March 18, as the vessel approached Sydney, a ships’ agent with Carnival Australia asked NSW Ambulance for transport for two patients with “febrile upper respiratory tract infections.” NSW Ambulance set a chain of notifications in motion, launching a confused discussion among a panoply of agencies and entities – Port Authority of New South Wales, NSW Health, NSW Ambulance, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the NSW Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, the Australian Border Force, the local ‘000’ emergency call center, NSW Police Marine Area Command – along with Carnival Australia and the Ruby Princess’ crew. During this extended conversation, the port authority suspended the vessel’s pilot appointment and requested further information. After learning from Carnival that the ship was assessed as a “low risk” vessel, port officials rescheduled the pilot service and brought the ship in to berth.
The following morning, NSW Health conducted no health assessments on board, and all passengers disembarked.
That day, 13 COVID test swabs that the ship’s medics had taken while under way were sent to a lab for testing. The samples were not marked as high priority, as the ship was considered “low risk,” and they were not processed until the night of March 19-20. The commission described this delay as “inexcusable,” as it delayed the public health response measures that followed.
NSW Health learned that three of these tests came back positive at 0830 hours on March 20, and it sounded the alarm. Initial efforts to contact and quarantine passengers had limited success, though they did find that nearly 400 passengers had self-reported COVID-19 symptoms.
Ultimately, 21 crewmembers and 663 Australian passengers tested positive for COVID-19, making the Ruby Princess voyage one of the nation’s largest single sources of infection. 62 secondary and tertiary infections in Australia have been linked back to Ruby Princess passengers. 28 individuals ultimately died, including eight foreign nationals, and the true number of overseas passengers who caught the illness on board is not known.
The government of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has accepted the commission’s findings and admitted its responsibility.
“The lessons weren’t learnt soon enough and again I apologize unreservedly on behalf all of those individuals and agencies who made those mistakes,” said Berejiklian in a statement Monday. “I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result [of the lapse].”
In June, a UK Royal Navy destroyer and Dutch Royal Navy ship safely moored in Odessa, Ukraine, were spoofed to locations off-shore of a Russian naval base on Crimea. One week later, it was a US Navy ship moored in the same port that was spoofed (above). These are interesting cases in several ways. First, how […]
A massive fire broke out at the Port of Beirut on Thursday, incinerating a warehouse full of tires and oil within the port’s free zone. The same area was heavily damaged in the ammonium nitrate explosion that leveled the central port area and the adjacent waterfront on August 4. According to Lebanon’s civil defense agency, […]
Over the course of the past five days, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority arranged a medical intervention for an injured aboard a freighter in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday evening, the Spliethoff tweendecker Dolfijngracht called for assistance while under way about 1,000 nauical miles off the coast of Western Australia. A crewmember had sustained serious […]
The UK government’s new post-Brexit tariff regime will result in both winners and losers. The new regime is set to replace the European Union’s Common External Tariff from the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31, 2020. The UK’s commitment to the ongoing Brexit process and ending the UK’s transition from EU membership […]
The First DP2, Twin-Hulled SOV in the World, NB72 Groene Wind met the Sea on September 29. 2020 in Yalova, Turkey. The Groene Wind will be directly chartered to Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy for the maintenance of the Rentel and Mermaid & Seastar (known as SeaMade) offshore wind farms in Belgium. This is the first DP2, […]
The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in eCommerce logistics, says that the latest statistics showing that global e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion in 2018 are a further vindication of its decision to enter this sector of the international freight market several years ago. The latest available estimates, up 8% from 2017, were recently […]
DSV Belgium has solid experience in the transport of pharmaceutical products for different customers. With a pharma hub based at Brussels Airport a lot of experience and know-how has been built up over the years. Last weekend, the forwarder handled one hundred million mouth masks, an important milestone for its Belgian organisation that has put […]
With close to 100 daily cargo flights operated to a destination network spanning more than 65 cities across six continents, Emirates SkyCargo is delivering essential supplies and commodities to people around the world. The air cargo carrier is currently operating 11 Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, each with a capacity to transport about 100 tonnes of […]
Operators can continue to use pilots and other crew members who have unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak in support of essential operations. Additionally, this Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and […]
The naval forces of the US and Bahrain recently staged a joint force training exercise which showcased the interoperability between coalition warships operating I the Arabian Gulf. Coalition Task Force Sentinel executed combined exercise Sentinel Shield supporting Sentry and Sentinel patrols in the coalition’s area of operations. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones and […]
Astral Aviation has increased its intra-African network with cargo freighters during the pandemic. While there has been a reduction in capacity to, from, and within Africa, which has been caused by a stoppage of passenger flights and limited frequencies on freighter aircraft, Astral Aviation continues to operate cargo freighters from its Nairobi hub to 13 destinations […]
Callan Marine is serving as the prime contractor to the Texas Department of Transportation for a maintenance dredging project located at the Bolivar Ferry Terminal, in Galveston, Texas. Work began in May and is estimated to be complete in late July 2020. The project consists of the removal of 600,000 cubic yards of material and […]
Best known as a leading passenger airport serving Germany’s most populated federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf has become transformed into a vital distribution point, during the COVID 19 pandemic, for medical equipment and other life-saving goods, mostly from China. Gerton Hulsman, managing director of cargo operations, reports that the handling teams are working hard to […]
Emirates SkyCargo has expanded its weekly scheduled cargo flight operations to cover 75 destinations across six continents. Through its wider reach, Emirates SkyCargo is able to transport essential commodities and other urgently needed cargo more rapidly across the world, allowing exporters and importers across markets to benefit from direct access to widebody cargo capacity. Some […]
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident that occurred on April 15, 2019, involving the towing vessel DeJeanne Maria which struck the end of a submerged dredge pipeline while pushing two spud barges to the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on the Mississippi River in Pass […]
Global commercial aviation charter company Albion Aviation Group is reporting that it is seeing a considerable uptake in its professional cargo broker training courses from the current global pandemic crisis and surge in charter demand. “We have completed a number webinar courses for a whole of host of companies, looking to manage their own cargo […]