Australian police have raided Ruby Princess to seize its ‘black box’ and questioned crew over the docking and disembarkation of passengers in Sydney three weeks ago.

The Princess Cruises ship has been linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases and 15 deaths across the country.

The New South Wales police probe centres around whether any laws were broken when around 2,700 passengers were allowed to leave the ship in Sydney on March 19.  

Detectives wearing personal protective equipment boarded the vessel at Port Kembla on Wednesday to gather evidence about how hundreds of passengers aboard were allowed to disemark.

NSW Police said in a statement that “investigators are conducting inquiries on board the Ruby Princess this evening.

“The operation is being conducted under the strictest health and workplace safety guidelines.”

Police commissioner Mick Fuller was reported by the Australian Associated Press as saying: “Police officers entered the Ruby Princess to gather evidence… ships have a black box very similar to international planes and that and other evidence has been seized.”

He added: “I can confirm there’s still over 1,000 crew members on the ship. We’re working closely with [the ship’s owners] Carnival.

“Three-quarters at this stage say they want to remain on the ship. They feel safe on the ship and I think that’s a good outcome.”

He said people had dropped off a number of care packages at the port for the crew members, “which I think speaks volumes for the local community”.

Police plan to interview other witnesses, while the ship is expected to remain at Port Kembla for ten days with 1,040 crew members undergoing medical assessments.

About 200 crew have shown symptoms of coronavirus, while 18 crew have so far tested positive.

The Australian Border Force confirmed it discussions with the NSW Port Authority about Ruby Princess before it docked in Sydney.

The ABF said it received a call from the Port Authority hours before the vessel was due to dock, in which it expressed “concern” about the health of passengers.

The ABF said on Wednesday that NSW Health had cleared the ship to dock.

“The ABF officer made internal enquiries and subsequently advised the NSW Port Authority that the vessel had been cleared by NSW Health,” the agency said in a statement reported by The Guardian.

A Carnival Australia spokesperson said: “The Voyage Data Recorder’s sole purpose is recording navigational information and radio transmissions to and from a port’s control centre for use in marine accident investigations.
“It has no bearing on the health clearance process that Ruby Princess followed to the letter.”