A police operation to return five cruise ships to their home ports has been undertaken in Sydney as the NSW government faces increased scrutiny over its handling of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal.
The Spectrum of the Seas and the Radiance of the Seas departed for their home ports on Saturday afternoon after fuel, food and medical supplies were loaded on board.
More than 600 crew members, who are foreign nationals, were moved between the two ships during the operation in Sydney Harbour.
A third ship, the Celebrity Solstice, entered the harbour on Saturday afternoon with another two – Voyager of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas – expected to follow.
Another 780 crew will be moved between the boats before all three depart.
Superintendent Steve Hegarty described it as the “largest peace time maritime operation” undertaken in Sydney Harbour.
It comes as NSW Labor called for the state’s Health Minister Brad Hazzard to resign over the Ruby Princess scandal, with the opposition labelling it “one of the greatest health disasters” in NSW history.
- Related: NSW Health knew about sick passengers before allowing Ruby Princess to disembark
- Related: NSW health minister defends handling of Ruby Princess
Mr Hazzard on Saturday backed staff who allowed the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark in Sydney despite knowing results from onboard swab tests would be known within hours.
More than 600 passengers onboard have since tested positive for COVID-19, including 351 NSW residents. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller is investigating the handling of the saga.