The deadline to leave for up to four cruise ships anchored off the Australian State of Queensland will come at midnight on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, the Australian Border Force denied requests by the cruise ship operators to remain in Australian waters forcing many of them to undertake returning crew members to their home countries in Asia.
Most of the vessels are registered in countries such as the Bahamas, Panama and Malta, under what is known as a “Flag of Convenience,” rather than in higher tax jurisdictions such as Australia.
The vessels were able to refuel and resupply and by Tuesday the majority had either left or were preparing to leave, with four more expected to be gone by Thursday.
“That’s about 13,500 crew that we have successfully managed to remove from Australian waters,” ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said on Tuesday.
Cruise ships account for a large portion of Australia’s roughly 6,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 50 deaths.
Earlier in the week a criminal investigation was launched regarding the Ruby Princess which was allowed to dock in Sydney last month, releasing hundreds of infected passengers into the community.
As of Wednesday the vessel, docked south of Sydney, has been allowed to remain while health officials brought a potential outbreak on board under control, before it was required to depart Australian waters.