'Greatest frustration of my life': WA Premier furious at cruise ship situation

WA Premier Mark McGowan has dubbed cruise ships amid the coronavirus outbreak “one of the greatest frustrations” of his life, as the disease-riddled ship refuses to leave the docks.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr McGowan urged the federal government to step in and get the German cruise ship, Artania, out of the WA port, saying he was “disappointed” the cruise ship had not left yet.

Onboard are some 500 people, including crew members and 12 passengers who are too unwell to make the journey back home.

The cruise ship Artania is seen docked in Fremantle harbour in Fremantle on Friday, March 27, 2020. Source: AAP

Seven people from the Artania are in intensive care at hospitals in Perth, which are also treating dozens of other stable patients from the vessel.

“The cruise ship frustration has been one of the great frustrations of my life,” Mr McGowan said today.

“The last two weeks dealing with this has been incredibly difficult but it has been incredibly difficult for everyone.

“I'm not trying to make this political. I just want urgency at a Commonwealth matter to deal with it and get it away.”

When asked if he would allow for federal authorities to take over the cruise ship and move it out of Fremantle, Mr McGowan said that was an option.

“The only problem with that is the ship may well turn around come back in. It is a difficult situation. I understand it is very difficult for the Commonwealth Government,” he said.

“If what's required is to clean the ship as a condition of getting it under way, well then, do that. If they need some protective equipment, give them that. But get the ship away as soon as possible.”

Mr McGowan said he didn’t want Artania to “serve as an attractor to cruise ships from elsewhere” and the fact that the ship had not left made him “disappointed”.

He added he was “fine” with the ship sailing away the sick passengers onboard and said he only found out about the ill patients onboard either “yesterday or this morning”, he could not recall.

Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan speaks to the media during a press conference in Perth, Saturday, March 28, 2020. Source: AAP

“If they come ashore under quarantine and fly home, well, then that could be another solution,” he said.

“I urge the Federal Government to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”

An Australian Border Force spokesman confirmed to AAP that all foreign-owned cruise ships had been ordered to leave, but federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said the Artania didn't need to go immediately.

“My information is that there are still 12 passengers on board, some of whom are very unwell and their level of either illness of frailty is such that they cannot get in a plane,” Mr Porter told 6PR radio on Wednesday.

“We've got a responsibility to those passengers to ensure the West Australian health system gives them the available attention to ensure that they don't - if I could put this bluntly - die on the voyage home because they've not received proper attention.”

WA implements interstate travel restrictions

At 12am last night, WA implemented interstate borders, limiting travel between the state’s nine regional boundaries.

There are nine checkpoints “that the SES, police and the army are supporting us with,” Mr McGowan said.

He said he had been informed the drastic operation to prevent the spread of the virus was running “smoothly” and some people had been turned away from crossing regional boundaries.

“If people are frustrated, hopefully that means the message is getting through,” he said.

A police officer looks on as Australian passengers from Italian cruise liners arrive at the Duxton Hotel in central Perth. Source: AAP

There are exemptions which permit travelling from one region to another:

  • work purposes

  • to transport freight

  • to attend medical appointments

  • to attend school or an educational institution (where necessary)

  • to those who do not have access to groceries or supplies within their region

  • catering for family members

  • compassionate grounds.

Mr McGowan also warned West Australians who are interstate would still have to isolate for 14 days.

“I'd say to them, ‘Come home now because at some point in time over the weekend it may become more difficult,’” he said.

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