RINA marine services director Paolo Moretti explains why scalability and flexibility were important in the ferry conversion
Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), part of MSC Group, has converted its Splendid ferry into a floating hospital equipped for patients with Covid-19 and those convalescing.
Italian class society RINA worked closely with the ferry operator to make this happen.
The ferry project marks an important milestone as it was converted into a hospital in just 10 days.
GNV began working on the project with class society RINA in early March, in close co-ordination with Italy’s Liguria Health System and Civil Protection. MSC said “Together they defined a suitable solution that could be implemented in a very short period to increase Liguria’s hospital capacity and, where necessary, to serve other areas of the country”.
Stationed at Ponte Colombo in Genoa’s ferry terminal, the current solution offers 64 beds in single cabins – although it is possible to equip additional cabins up to a total of 400 beds. The floating hospital also features dedicated areas for healthcare personnel and crew.
Why a ferry is suitable
RINA marine services director Paolo Moretti tells Passenger Ship Technology “There was huge pressure on hospitals in March and so GNV came up with this idea to try and relieve the system by using a ferry for patients. We decided the ferry is a suitable environment with garages and ramps, therefore quite easy for an ambulance to go inside and have separate access.”
He explains it is also possible to separate those with Covid-19, as the ferry is split into main vertical zones with separate ventilation from other areas, including galleys, “so it seemed the ferry was a good option”.
Mr Moretti adds “We identified where the main areas of concern for any spread of the virus were and involved the local authorities from a very early stage. The virus is spread by droplets and contaminated surfaces so these were contained as much as possible. We had a good environment as the main vertical zone has its own dedicated ventilation, and so we could have all infectious patients in this area. We then looked at how to insulate and separate one cabin from another and so have a dedicated inlet and outlet to supply ventilation.”
He explains that ventilation was modified in the common corridors to keep it separate. An additional exhaust fan for ventilation was created for the upper deck. The galley for food preparation was kept completely separate and a separate area for triage was created.
CCTV was installed in corridors to monitor patients and alarms have been added to cabins so patients can alert medical staff. Cabin furniture was removed to make way for medical equipment and in many cases flooring was removed to be replaced with waterproof coating for hygiene.
Mr Moretti adds “Additional training and procedures for crew have been needed as this is still a ship that is floating but they need to have additional knowledge about monitoring and patient procedures.”
He highlighted that flexibility and scalability of the vessel was important. “The ferry is stationary at the pier, but it could be shipped to other ports, so is flexible. The ferry has an advantage as when at the pier it has ramps, making it possible for an ambulance to enter or the escalator could be used as an entrance.” The garage is large and can be equipped with containers, which could be converted to dedicated modules for intensive care if needed, which Mr Moretti said was part of the scalability of the vessel.
The vessel was converted at San Giorgio Del Porto shipyard. Mr Moretti comments “There was a big commitment from the shipping community to assist and that was very important. We received a lot of calls from manufacturers who wanted to help, so there was a lot of solidarity.”
Numerous partners made available products and services free of charge to equip the ship with all the necessary supplies, says GNV, including HP-Aruba, Alpha Trading, Artigo Rubber Flooring, San Giorgio del Porto, Auscomar, ItalBrokers, Le Navi Maritime Agency, Burger King, Covim, Emis, Giunti Editore, IdealService, Infomaster, Mantero Sistemi, Provveditoria Marittima Ligure Angelo Novelli and Ansaldo Naval Technical Studio.
Part of the scalability necessary for the ferry was that it was possible to turn it back to normal operations. This is where RINA’s new certification came into effect. Mr Moretti says “We started with a new certification that covers when the ferry goes back to normality, which will not be the same as before as more and more attention will be paid [by the passenger ship industry] to avoid the spread of virus.”
New certification to mitigate infection spread
RINA has, in fact, launched the new Biosafety Trust Certification, the first management system certification aimed at the prevention and mitigation of the spread of infections in public places and to provide greater health and safety.
“Our certification addresses policy and procedures and modifications of assets that can be put in place to mitigate viruses spreading. From procedures for cleaning surfaces, to making temporary modifications like now and how to segregate areas. Cruise and ferry operators can make plans, assess risk mitigation and put this in place according to our standards and over the years we will check they are still implementing these.”
The new management system provides a set of best practices to help minimise the risks of spreading epidemics in crowded places such as public transport, entertainment and sporting venues (restaurants, theatres, gyms, museums, swimming pools), accommodation facilities (hotels, congress centers, cruise ships) and healthcare structures such as retirement and care homes.
The Biosafety Trust Certification is based on ISO’s systematic approach to management systems combined with scientific best practices against the spread of infections together with the principles of organisational behavior management to effectively control and prevent a contagion in a work context.
The success of health and safety management systems also depends on human behavior. To comply with strict hygiene rules the system also requires staff to undergo ad hoc training courses for specific situations and individual users must be made aware of and follow the recommended preventative measures.
The requirements of this new tool can be integrated into existing management systems such as ISO 45001 supplementing these systems with specific procedures focused on preventing and controlling infections.
Mr Moretti sums up “We have the chance to use this scheme to guarantee the vessel is ready and safe when it starts again and in the future it is important to consider the possibility of another coronavirus and so be ready to change the way in which we travel. With simple procedures and proper thinking we can have important results in prevention.”
RINA is in contact with other ferry operators about its new certification scheme.
Snapshot CV: Paolo Moretti (RINA)
Paolo Moretti is marine service director at RINA. Previously, he was executive vice president for marine strategic development at RINA. Mr Moretti began his career in the classification department of RINA in 1997. He later supervised cargo vessels and cruise ships in the Far East and Europe and became head of the pleasure craft product line in 2006. In 2011, he became general manager of the marine business.