Investigation finds no grounds to sue cruise line for transporting Covid-19 to New Zealand


The Ruby Princess is a Bermuda-flagged cruise ship owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by Princess Cruises.  (File photo)

Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

The Ruby Princess is a Bermuda-flagged cruise ship owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by Princess Cruises. (File photo)

The crew and the company operating the cruise ship that transported Covid-19 to New Zealand will not be prosecuted after an investigation finds it would not be in the public interest.

The New Zealand Customs Service released its findings to Things under the Official Information Act following a 20-month investigation into the Ruby Princess and whether any infractions were committed prior to her arrival in New Zealand on March 11 last year.

The cruise ship carrying 2,671 passengers and 1,146 crew left Sydney in the early hours of March 9. It arrived in Milford Sound on March 11, then made further stops at Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington and Napier before interrupting its voyage and leaving New Zealand waters on March 15.

By the time the ship returned to Sydney on March 19, many people were seriously ill with Covid-19.

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The customs investigation, like the 320-page Special Commission of Inquiry report before it, does not draw any conclusions as to how or when the virus entered the ship.

The Ruby Princess, right, at Napier port on March 15, 2020 (File photo)

Peter Langbroek / Tips

The Ruby Princess, right, at Napier port on March 15, 2020 (File photo)

Twenty-eight people have died from the outbreak of the ship and more than 700 have been infected. Before leaving our waters, the ship had spread the virus to 24 people in New Zealand.

It is now known that Covid-19 was present on the ship before it arrived in New Zealand, as at least one passenger, Tony Londero, was symptomatic. Although he was increasingly ill, he did not see a doctor until March 16.

Customs investigation found that although the virus was likely to have been on the ship upon arrival in New Zealand, “this investigation found no evidence that the crew, officer or anyone else linked to the Ruby Princess was aware of a Covid-19. infection before arrival in New Zealand ”.

There was evidence to prove that the ship’s personnel had committed an offense by failing to submit a Notice of Arrival (ANA) to customs at least 48 hours before the ship’s arrival in Milford Sound, but the notice was submitted only eight hours late and this was due to additional passenger screening in Sydney.

An ANA is a statutory statement that must be provided by the person responsible for a vessel arriving in New Zealand in order to allow time for government agencies to assess any risk before the vessel arrives.

“There is no evidence that the delay was part of a deliberate attempt to circumvent border controls and the ANA was submitted relatively quickly after the deadline expired. There is no evidence that the delay had a causal effect on the cluster of 24 Covid-19 cases in New Zealand that are attributed to the Ruby Princess, ”the investigation revealed.

It was not in the public interest to prosecute the offense, according to the investigation.

He also found insufficient evidence to prove that the ANA submitted on March 9 was erroneous, misleading, or inauthentic.

The ship’s staff were aware of six people with suspected infectious diseases before the ship’s arrival in New Zealand, but these did not meet the case definition criteria for Covid-19 at the time, and all of them have been notified before the vessel obtains free circulation (authorization to arrive).

When the ship was in Wellington on March 14, five passengers were tested for Covid-19, all returning. negative results.

A criminal investigation into the arrival of the Ruby Princess in Sydney by New South Wales Police is underway.

The customs investigation noted “that it is possible, but unlikely, that other material relevant to New Zealand will be gathered in the course of this investigation.”

A class action lawsuit against Carnival Corporation was also pending.