NSW Police have formed a strike force to look into how the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship was allowed to dock and disembark thousands of passengers in Sydney in mid-March.
A team of 30 detectives from across a host of NSW Police departments, including counter-terrorism, special tactics and marine area commands, has been seconded to Strike Force Bast.
They began their investigation on Wednesday morning.
The ship, which was carrying more than 100 sick passengers, has since become the source of 15 COVID-19 deaths and nearly 370 cases in Australia and overseas.
On Wednesday, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall described it as a “shocking situation” that had “caused havoc right across our nation”.
Earlier this week, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced a criminal investigation would examine the communications, actions, and other circumstances that led to the Ruby Princess docking at Circular Quay on March 19.
It comes as the Nine newspapers report an Australian Border Force officer instructed a Sydney harbour master to allow the troubled cruise ship to dock, despite it having up to 140 passengers in isolation on board.
Sources have told the papers there was a conversation between a Port Authority of NSW employee and a female Border Force officer in the hours before the ship was due to dock.
The paper said there were serious concerns about the sick passengers on board. The Border Force officer told the harbour master she needed to check with a supervisor – 15 minutes later, she called back and said the ship could dock.
Passengers from the ship were dispatched into central Sydney to make their way home – and reports of cases have grown ever since.
The Ruby Princess then spent a fortnight in NSW waters, off the central coast, before being permitted to dock at Port Kembla on Monday. By then, more than 200 of the 1000 crew on board had reported coronavirus symptoms.
NSW Police said Strike Force Blast would interview high-priority witnesses in coming days.
They have also urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.