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Cruise exec slammed over ‘deficient’ Ruby Princess precautions

The grieving widow of a Ruby Princess passenger and coronavirus victim has broken down in tears while testifying at an inquiry, whose commissioner has slammed the cruise ship company’s executive for its “deplorable” testing rates.

Janette Moore’s husband Robert developed a sniffily nose around the time the notorious vessel docked in Sydney on March 19, and within days he died.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Commissioner Bret Walker SC said.

When Mr Walker thanked Mrs Moore for her emotional evidence, she replied: “As long as it helps with another cruise.”

Peter Little of Carnival Australia gives evidence at the inquiry into the Ruby Princess on Friday.
media_cameraPeter Little of Carnival Australia gives evidence at the inquiry into the Ruby Princess on Friday.

“I can’t do anything about my husband — he’s gone,” she told the inquiry.

“But if we can prevent it happening again, that’s all that matters.”

Carnival Australia’s senior vice president of guest experience, Peter Little, expressed his “heartfelt sympathy for everyone who has been affected by this incident”.

Until 10 days ago, Mr Little was unaware of what Mr Walker condemned as a “grossly deficient number of swabs” on-board the Ruby Princess for COVID-19 testing, and said supply chain issues were handled in the United States.

Mr Walker labelled it a “real concern” that the liner set sail on a round trip from Sydney to New Zealand, despite the company knowing it did not have enough testing kits as explicitly required under state government policy.

Water police patrol the contaminated cruise ship Ruby Princess while it berths in Port Kembla in April. Picture: Simon Bullard
media_cameraWater police patrol the contaminated cruise ship Ruby Princess while it berths in Port Kembla in April. Picture: Simon Bullard

“At least part of the explanation for that deplorable state of affairs is the way in which the supply chain was administered remotely through America,” he said.

“Can you think of any reason why I should not decide that Carnival didn’t care about complying with the requirement for enough swabs?”

“It wasn’t and isn’t my responsibility… it sits with the medical services department (in California),” Mr Little said.

NSW Police wearing hazmat gear board the Ruby Princess cruise ship at Port Kembla. Picture: NSW Police
media_cameraNSW Police wearing hazmat gear board the Ruby Princess cruise ship at Port Kembla. Picture: NSW Police

Mr Walker said this answer was unsatisfactory, and if a Carnival Australia representative with oversight of supply chains “doesn’t squarely address this point, it’s highly likely there will be very adverse comments about the cruise line’s co-operation with this commission”.

Some 2700 people were allowed to disembark the ship at Circular Quay without proper health checks, in what has become the single largest source of infection nationally.

Mr Walker suggested for a cruise liner to profit off its passengers without ensuring that there was even an elementary precaution taken in the public health interests of the Australian community was a “serious shortcoming of corporate citizenship”.

The inquiry continues.

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