Inquiry finds ‘serious mistakes’ made on Ruby Princess

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The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess released its final report on Friday last week, noting ‘serious mistakes’ that were made in the handling of the cruise ship.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the report identified a number of concerning mistakes. 

“It is clear mistakes were made by NSW Health and others,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I recognise the hurt and suffering these mistakes caused, and I apologise for that.

“These issues occurred during an extraordinary time of great uncertainty, and as we navigate this pandemic we will continue to learn from mistakes and where we could have done better.

“We have learned from the Ruby Princess and the public can have confidence we will avoid such a situation occurring again.”

According to the report, the NSW Health expert panel made a serious mistake in not recognising that there were more than 100 people on board the ship who were suspected COVID-19 cases.

Senior vice-president for guest experiences for P&O cruises, Peter Little, who is also an employee of Carnival, which owns Princess Cruises, told the commission that the ship’s senior doctor, Dr Ilse von Watzdorf, should have been aware about the people on board who would have fallen within the definition of being a suspected case of COVID-19.

However, the commissioner stopped short of making any adverse finding against Dr von Watzdorf in relation to this as she was the senior doctor on a cruise ship carrying more than 3700 people and it was reasonable to assume that the medical centre on the ship was busy during the 8 March voyage.

“Cruise line companies, with ships operating in foreign ports, can and should be expected during a pandemic to keep abreast of any relevant definitions of that particular disease,” the report stated.

“Carnival’s medical team in the United States should have informed its fleet of ships travelling to and from Australian ports of the definition of a ‘suspect case’ of COVID-19.”

Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, said he welcomed the commission’s findings and would now take the time to consider them and what it means for the cruise line.

“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,” Mr Swartz said.

“This finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people. In our more than 20 years in Australia, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with officials in accordance with the regulatory environment.

“Princess Cruises also welcomes the commission’s attention to improving information sharing and coordination among government agencies in the future. In our submission to the inquiry, we agreed that this area deserved consideration. We look forward to collaborating with government agencies and industry peers to improve these systems.”

Have you read the report? Should more have been done to stop passengers on this ship disembarking? Who do you think bears the most blame for the Ruby Princess debacle?

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Written by Ben


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