Australian police investigators into a possible Covid-19 related criminal case on the cruise ship Ruby Princess, have been urged to adhere to international standards on the fair treatment of seafarers in maritime incidents.
Nautilus director of legal services Charles Boyle has written to police investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of passengers or other persons, connected with Ruby Princess, expressing concern that lawyers for Carnival are advising they are representing both the company and employees.
Nautilus has retained independent maritime and coronial lawyers to assist members onboard. The union is also cooperating closely with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the Maritime Union of Australia (AMU).
Members could be interviewed by the NSW police, and may be required to participate in and give evidence to the Commission of Inquiry and may also be interviewed by federal authorities.
Members onboard the Ruby Princess are advised to use the Union's independent legal service as it is not considered the company lawyers will represent their best interests.
'It is very clear, even at this stage, that the interests of the employees is likely to diverge from those of the company, and therefore Nautilus would emphasise that it will be highly inappropriate, unethical and unprofessional if the police or other authorities engage with our members, while they are being represented by company lawyers in a situation where there is a clear conflict of interest,' said Mr Boyle.
Mr Boyle drew attention to the internationally accepted standards for the protection of seafarers in their involvement with law enforcement authorities, as set out in the joint IMO/ILO guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a maritime accident.
'Australia is a member of both the IMO and the ILO, both of which are specialised agencies of the UN in their respective fields,' said Mr Boyle.
Guidelines for the port or coastal State also provides 'that seafarers are, where necessary, provided interpretation services, and are advised of their right to independent legal advice, are provided access to independent legal advice, are advised of their right not to incriminate themselves and their right to remain silent, and, in the case of seafarers who have been taken into custody, ensure that independent legal advice is provided.'
Nautilus lawyers have sought details from investigators of the scope of their proposed interviews.
Members who are contacted by authorities in respect to witness interviews are urged to immediately contact the Union.
The Ruby Princess disembarked about 2,700 passengers in Sydney on March 19 after an 11-day cruise to New Zealand. Since then there have been more than 660 Covid-19 cases and at least 13 deaths associated with people onboard.
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.