NSW Police raid Ruby Princess at Port Kembla to seize evidence for investigation

NSW Police have raided the Ruby Princess docked at Port Kembla on Wednesday night, seizing the ship's black box and other evidence as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Specialist detectives from Strike Force Bast boarded the ill-fated ship around 7pm on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the docking and disembarking of the vessel in Sydney on March 19.

As well as seizing evidence, the detectives spoke with the ship's captain and crew members.

The cruise ship arrived in Port Kembla on Monday morning for 10 days, and is docked at berth 104 near the grain terminal with crew confined to quarters.

Heavily guarded by police and defence force, the Ruby Princess is the largest single source of coronavirus in NSW and is responsible for more than 620 cases - mostly passengers - and 15 deaths nationwide.

On Thursday morning NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told reporters that around three-quarters of the more than 1000 crew members had indicated they wanted to remain on the ship, that they felt safe.

Commissioner Fuller also praised the Illawarra community for their kindness in putting together care packages for those on board. Locals continue to drop off packages to the Port Kembla Mission to Seafarers charity to lift the spirits of crew.

"Local community have dropped off a number of care packages at the port for the crew members, which I think speaks volumes of the local community," Commissioner Fuller said.

Meanwhile unions representing crew members have expressed frustration at efforts to check on the welfare of those on board.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris has called on NSW Health and Health Minister Brad Hazzard to "urgently intervene" and take over the medical operation of the ship.

"The SCLC is the peak union body on the South Coast of NSW and we have been assisting our affiliates to address what is clearly an emergency affecting the health and safety of over 1200 workers on that ship berthed in Port Kembla," he wrote in a letter to NSW Health.

"We hold grave concerns for the health of the crew and very little confidence in the capacity of the contractors, Aspen Medical to satisfactorily address the urgent health needs on the ship and maintain the confidence of the community which is critical to this campaign against the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

On Thursday afternoon Mr Rorris said Mr Hazzard had confirmed that eight crew members had tested positive to the virus, while 88 were undergoing testing.

"The International Transport Workers Federation has finally made contact with a number of crew, and discovered around 80 have symptoms of respiratory illness and require testing," he said.

"However the contractors, Aspen Medical, had denied them access to testing. It was only after we called on Mr Hazzard to intervene, that these crew members will be given access to testing.

"Meanwhile there remains some 1000 workers that the contractor has no interest or intention in testing and that's a scandal."

Mr Rorris has also asked the minister who Aspen Medical was accountable to, and if there was any oversight over the medical operation on the Ruby Princess.

NSW Police urged anyone with information relevant to the investigation - including details of symptoms, illness or medial advice during the voyage - to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information will be treated in strict confidence.

We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we aim to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.

This story NSW Police raid Ruby Princess at Port Kembla to seize evidence for investigation first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.