A taxpayer-funded cruise around Australia that would have defied coronavirus state border closures has been cancelled.
A replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour was due to leave Sydney on May 6 and visit 38 ports around the country despite a spate of COVID-19 cruise ship cases.
Just two days ago, the Australian National Maritime Museum was adamant the tall ship would sail even though Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have closed their borders as the Commonwealth shuts down non-essential businesses.
‘At the moment it’s going ahead,’ a well-placed source told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday. ‘Everyone is watching it closely.’
Since the publication of that story, the voyage to commemorate Captain James Cook’s 1770 landing at Botany Bay in Sydney has been called off.
The museum took it upon itself on Friday to abandon the voyage after Australian Border Force said it was a matter for state port authorities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had even pledged $6.7million in taxpayer funding a year ago so the 25-year-old replica ship could sail around Australia.
Museum director Kevin Sumption said the 250th anniversary voyage had now been suspended.
‘This decision was not taken lightly,’ he said in a statement on Friday.
‘After four years of planning, this is disappointing but it is necessary at this time.
‘I trust the public will understand and hope they engage with our digital resources instead.’
Each leg of the sold-out voyage on the HMB Endeavour replica was meant to carry 56 people on board, including 16 professional crew.
Tickets were sold for 36 voyage crew places and four other travellers for the voyage around Australia.
Refunds will now be offered, with several legs sold out despite the price tag of $5,000.
The museum said it would ‘commence the process of providing refunds to the people who purchased tickets for the voyage’.
The museum cancelled the voyage after Australian Border Force said the issue was a matter for state port authorities.
Queensland’s Labor Transport Minister Mark Bailey declined to demand the voyage be cancelled even though it was due to arrive in Brisbane on May 12.
The replica ship had been due to sail into Sydney’s Botany Bay on April 29 to mark the HMB Endeavour’s 1770 landing at Kurnell, which is in Mr Morrison’s federal electorate of Cook.
From May was due to stop in Newcastle, along with Brisbane, Gladstone and Cairns in Queensland by the end of June.
From there, it was sailing to Cooktown and Thursday Island in July and August, before docking at Darwin, Broome and Port Hedland from late August to October.
The Endeavour will continue to sail down the West Australian coast to Perth in October and November.
Legs of the journey have sold out with tickets on one section, between Mackay and Townsville, selling for $4,950.
A $500 deposit was required to confirm a place on the voyage but ticket costs are fully refundable should it be cancelled.
‘Join the voyage of a lifetime and the most bucket-list-worthy adventure on the high seas,’ the museum website said.
In January last year, Mr Morrison announced the federal government would give $6.7million to the Australian National Maritime Museum for the voyage.
‘As the 250th anniversary nears we want to help Australians better understand Captain Cook’s historic voyage and its legacy for exploration, science and reconciliation,’ the Prime Minister said in a statement more than a year ago.
‘That voyage is the reason Australia is what it is today and it’s important we take the opportunity to reflect on it.
‘From Far North Queensland and the Cooktown 2020 Festival across to Bunbury and down to Hobart, our government will ensure Australians young and old can see firsthand the legacy of Captain Cook and the voyage of the Endeavour.’
On March 19, the New South Wales government allowed the cruise ship Ruby Princess to dock at Circular Quay in Sydney, which saw 2,700 passengers walk off the boat.
More than 130 of those aboard have now tested positive to COVID-19, making it the single greatest source of infections in Australia since the outbreak began in January.
A woman aged her 70s who was taken from the cruise ship to hospital after docking died on Tuesday morning.
Across the other side of Australia, the West Australian government will quarantine 800 passengers on Vasco da Gama cruise ship after it lands at Fremantle.
They will be taken to Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth for self-isolation.