Nautilus International is calling on the UK government to assist its members onboard the Bermuda-flagged cruise ship Ruby Princess, which has been quarantined in New South Wales (NSW) by the Australian government.
Following an outbreak of Covid-19 onboard the Ruby Princess was instructed to move from Sydney Harbour to Port Kembla, an industrial hub in New South Wales.
According to reports from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) coordinator in Sydney, the vessel is now in the control of a military health contractor, assisted by the NSW police and the Australian army.
A crew of some 1,100 seafarers remains onboard as of 8 April. All the passengers have disembarked.
Up to 800 seafarers are described as isolated onboard the vessel, with a further 200 said to be experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 but testing of these seafarers has been extremely limited.
Together with the ITF, Nautilus International is calling for its members and other seafarers to be allowed to disembark the vessel. Those seafarers experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 should be taken to a hospital (not to a military installation), and those who are symptom-free should be housed in one of the region's many empty hotels. All seafarers should be assisted in their repatriation.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: 'The International Labour Organization and other world bodies have already called upon national governments to facilitate the safe passage of seafarers around the world.
'Those seafarers being held onboard Ruby Princess are concerned for their own health and safety, and the Australian and NSW governments should understand this. We hope that some humanity will be shown in allowing for these Union members to disembark and to return to their home countries immediately.'
Mr Dickinson has written to the British consul-general in Sydney, requesting the support of the UK government in maintaining the dignity and fair treatment onboard Ruby Princess.
The Union will also raise the issue with the United Kingdom Department for Transport in its regular dialogue throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Nautilus members who 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.