If it is to survive, cruise shipping has to learn to mitigate the risk posed by Covid-19, according to experts at Riviera’s The Covid-19 proofed passenger ship: interior design for health and safety on board
Covid-19 is having a huge impact on newbuild and refurbishment projects, with many postponed and some cancelled. Webinar panellists including David McCarthy, Marine Development Director, AD Associates; Lawrence Rapp, Principal Consultant, Cruise Line Newbuilding & Operations, Seawise Consulting Group; Andreas Ullrich, Global Market Leader, Passenger Ships & Ferries, Bureau Veritas; Frank Weber, SVP - Hotel Operations, Virgin Voyages; and Fernando Pou Feliu, Senior Assessor in Unit Safety and Security, EMSA gauged views from the passenger ship industry about the impact on construction and drydock schedules, how these might be transformed following the pandemic and how innovations within the design, layout and technology used on ships will be developed to keep passengers safe, for both this pandemic and potential future virus outbreaks. The webinar was part of Riviera’s Passenger Shipping Webinar Week and was put on in partnership with Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe.
As cruise shipping has resumed in the EU, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), working with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, has published a guidance document for the cruise lines operating during the pandemic.
EMSA senior assessor in unit safety and security Fernando Pou Feliu explained that the guidance is not meant to be either a compendium or to be prescriptive, saying "being prescriptive in Covid-19 you will get outdated very soon".
Instead, the document focuses on the development of a Covid-19 plan for companies and ships, the development of a Covid-19 port management plan and guidance for co-ordination between cruise vessels and ports. An attached annex details scientific evidence and additional considerations.
Mr Pou Feliu said companies are encouraged to develop a plan with measures that can be implemented on both the port and vessel side.
Bureau Veritas (BV) global market leader for passenger ships and ferries Andreas Ullrich said the company has published a guideline that focuses on the cruise sector with an emphasis on management.
“We need training, training and training” said Mr Ullrich. The goal is to mitigate risk and get the crew to co-ordinate with passengers to have an efficient operation. Mr Ullrich added that the cruise sector should adapt to a changing regulatory environment.
As such, BV is co-ordinating with owners, yards, suppliers and design companies. A new organisational method based on its existing NI 673 guideline has been developed.
Mr Ullrich added that BV is looking beyond Covid-19 to consider potential future viruses and suggested new construction features on cruise vessels (larger lifts, modified air conditioning systems, thermal cameras and contact tracing) to help mitigate risk.
Representing cruise operator Virgin Voyages, Frank Weber who serves as senior vice president for hotel operations stressed the need to weed out potential infections in the preboarding process. Testing, as a snapshot of a particular moment, does not offer foolproof protection, he said.
"You have to assume someone will slip through,” Mr Weber said, adding the cruise operation itself has to ensure a healthy space to reduce the risk of spread.
Citing its young fleet of ships, Mr Weber said Virgin Voyages uses a module – AtmosAir – in its HVAC systems which uses bi-polar ionisation to kill microbes. He said that, in its ship designs, the line has moved to cut back on large spaces like dining halls and theatres on its cruises.
Operational mitigation measures for Virgin Cruises include reducing physical contact between the staff and passengers as crew members are provided touchless equipment to carry out billing, booking and other onboard activities, Mr Weber said.
Design firm AD Associates marine development director David McCarthy said cruise ships are implementing more non-contact technologies such as using mobile apps that can test and trace medical records, virtual queueing and remote ordering.
Vessel design is moving towards making areas ‘touchless’ beginning with the boarding process, Mr McCarthy said. For example, elevators and cabins will become accessible without the need to physically touch equipment.
“It could be voice activation and wireless capabilities within your state room, for instance and then also physical aspects, such as the public WC facilities, cabinet entry, whereby you either have something like a magic eye, or the ability to design it in such a way that you do not have to physically touch something,” Mr McCarthy said.
Regarding vessel design, Mr McCarthy said he expects virtual reality and management systems such as building information modelling to gain more prominence. New technology can help eliminate the risk of contact for passengers and crew members. “It is going to come down to space optimisation.”
Some 77% of webinar attendees felt that the pandemic will affect the vessel’s interior design going forward.
Mr McCarthy said he believes the cruise sector’s experience with norovirus has prepared it to have protocols in place. “The tools are there” he said.
Vessels will use more UVC systems within the HVAC systems. Surfaces and finishes will employ more antimicrobial products. And, Mr McCarthy said, there has been a “significant upsurge” in the amount of cleaning and the adoption of medical grade chemicals.
There may be a move towards smaller vessels, he said.
Mr McCarthy’s view on a future full of smaller cruise vessels was shared by 64% of webinar attendees who think future vessels will be smaller and feature a greater ratio of space per guest.
In his overview of the changes in the onboard cruise experience, Seawise Consulting Group principal consultant for cruise line newbuildings and operations, Lawrence Rapp said one of the lasting changes of the pandemic may be improvements in HVAC systems and air recirculation on ships.
Some lines have opted for a combination of UVC and heat filtration but Mr Rapp said this is not a “plug and play” scenario. The heat filtration creates a back pressure in the system and is more than most eight-track motors can handle on existing ships while UVC systems require a certain time contact with the virus in order to kill it.
While attendees were unanimous on the need to maintain distancing and hygiene protocols, Mr Rapp said “Until we get a vaccine and we can ease up on social distancing, the cruise industry is not viable in the long term. And that maybe is a radical statement. But the industry cannot survive on 60 or 70% occupancy. That is just a fact.”
In light of this, he stressed the need for continual testing in the preboarding process to create a “no-virus bubble on board” which will give operators a better chance of withstanding the length of the cruise.
Cruise shipping in the United States, which accounts for 45% of global cruise market share, ceased entirely following a CDC order in March. While that order is set to expire on 30 September unless rescinded, Mr Rapp said he expected no movement from the CDC until after the US presidential election in November 2020.
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David McCarthy, Marine Development Director, AD Associates
Lawrence Rapp, Principal Consultant, Cruise Line Newbuilding & Operations, Seawise Consulting Group
Andreas Ullrich, Global Market Leader, Passenger Ships & Ferries, Bureau Veritas
Frank Weber, SVP - Hotel Operations, Virgin Voyages
Fernando Pou Feliu, Senior Assessor in Unit Safety and Security, EMSA