The repatriation process has begun for crew members on board the ill-fated Ruby Princess ahead of the cruise ship's scheduled departure on Thursday.
Ruby Princess crew members have finally begun to disembark the troubled cruise ship to fly home ahead of the liner's expected departure from NSW waters.
At least 49 crew members from six countries will on Tuesday disembark the ship, which has been docked at Port Kembla for more than two weeks following a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak.
About 1000 more people still remain on board.
An announcement on the ship's PA system broke the news to those staff members stranded on board, saying "this virus can't break us, it actually has one design fault - it makes us stronger."
Staff were also told to expect a letter regarding their "salary and compensation" in the coming days.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the health and safety of crew and the wider community would continue to be the priority.
"The movement of the first crew contingent today is an important milestone, and has us one step closer to the Ruby Princess leaving Australian waters," Mr Fuller said in a statement on Tuesday.
One of the crew members leaving the ship on Tuesday has tested positive for the coronavirus and will be taken to a NSW Health-managed hotel for 14 days of quarantine before returning home, NSW Police said.
The remaining 48 crew members have tested negative and arrangements are being made for flights to their home countries.
NSW Police said more crew members will disembark the Ruby Princess in coming days, but a significant number will remain on board and return with the ship to its port of origin.
Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said the ship was on track for a Thursday departure.
"I think in rough estimates there will still be hundreds of people left on that boat," Mr Worboys told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
"There needs to be a crew to sail the boat, but also there will be people that will want to stay on that ship to return as well."
The Ruby Princess initially docked in Sydney in March for the disembarkation of passengers and some crew.
It is linked to at least 21 deaths and hundreds of coronavirus cases across Australia.
Most of the crew have remained in isolation on the ship and 190 of those on board had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday night.
Another 12 crew members infected with coronavirus have previously been evacuated to NSW hospitals.
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