The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has called on the Australian government to repatriate crew stranded on cruise ships off the Australian coast.
Crew should be allowed to disembark and flown home to their countries of residence amid fears the vessels will become humanitarian disasters if coronavirus takes hold, ITF said.
Essential crew for maintaining ship operations should be allowed to stay onboard, it said.
ITF national coordinator in Australia Dean Summers said: 'We call on governments to repatriate crew members to their countries, leaving only crew for maritime operations, and the cruise lines should pay for it.
'This is an emerging humanitarian catastrophe. I feel sympathy for the passengers, but crew are living in much more dangerous conditions.'
Nautilus international officer Danny McGowan said: 'Nautilus understands the desires of nations to keep this pandemic under control. However, we have seen countries implement exceptions for seafarers in a humane way that allows them to return to their home countries with only minimal delays. These exemptions should set an example to those countries that are taking more draconian steps.
'Seafarers play a key role in keeping supply chains and the economy moving, but that does not make them any less human when it comes to wanting to be with their loved ones at a time of global crisis. We call on the Australian government to do the right thing for the seafarers in the circumstances.'
At least 18 foreign-registered ships were reported to be docked or floating in Australian waters, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Six crew were medically evacuated from the Bahamas-flagged Ruby Princess, which had been anchored off Botany Bay, Sydney, from March 8. At least 440 passengers across six states and two territories had tested positive for Covid-19 after disembarking from the cruise ship, the Guardian said.
Voyager of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice, with approximately 1,200 crew each, were docked at Port Kembla near Wollongong, while the Radiance of the Seas (894 crew), Ovation of the Seas (1,500 crew), Spectrum of the Seas (1,551 crew) and Carnival Splendour (1,150 crew) were off the New South Wales coast.
In Queensland, the Sun Princess (924 crew) was heading to Gladstone, according to ship tracking site Marine Traffic. The Carnival Spirit (930 crew) was off the coast of Brisbane, while the Sea Princess (910 crew), Azamara Journey (408 crew) and Pacific Dawn were all floating off the Sunshine Coast. The Queen Elizabeth cruiseship, with 1,005 crew, was docked in Gladstone.
In Western Australia, the Artania remains at dock in Fremantle after refusing local authorities' demands to leave Australian waters. At least 29 Australian passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19 and were taken to hospital.
The ITF cruiseship taskforce, which Nautilus is part of, will continue to monitor the situation for crew stuck onboard off Australia.
Nautilus members who are concerned or are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.
More Nautilus assistance and our coronavirus resource hub can be found on our Assistance page.