Health and Safety at Sea

Tillberg Design of Sweden organised on May 7th a webinar about ‘health and safety at sea’. Although mainly aimed at the cruise sector, at Ferry Shipping News we believe there are different elements that can be shared by both the cruise and passenger ferry industries.

Co-owner Fredrik Johansson and his team held this webinar in response to the current situation, where most cruise ships around the world are docked due to the coronavirus pandemic. Not long ago, when they still had passengers on board, the ships were in the news on a daily basis, with the many deaths on the Diamond Princess in Yokohama grabbing the headlines.

History of health on passenger ships

As an introduction, Maurizio Elisio (university lecturer on cruise ship design/Thalia Marine Services) gave a presentation about the history of health onboard passenger ships. In the era of the great migration (1880-1914), it was bad, with frequent epidemics. “Before the first world war, ocean liners were transporting up to 50% of migrants. They lived jam-packed on the lower areas of the ships. They slept in bunk beds in dormitories, where they also had to eat. For washing there was one shower per 100 migrants. Drinking was often straight from waterpipes, which resulted in a rapid spread of diseases like cholera, measles and scarlet fever.

On one ship at the beginning of the 20th century only 400 people of the 1500 survived the crossing. 1100 were buried at sea. It shocked the public opinion and things started to change. For example, ship owners had to provide drinking glasses.”

“When the golden era of travel started in the interwar period, Americans wanted to visit the old world. At first ships were seen as bad places to go. Ozonisers were introduced, in the first place to reduce bad smell. It was a very efficient virus and bacterial killer.”

Maurizio Elisio believes ozonisers are a part of the solution. “Luggage could be disinfected by ozonisers in the terminal, prior to being taken on board. Ozonisers would also only need 20 minutes to destroy all viruses in a cabin. It could be integrated in the HVAC.”

Another solution he showed was the UV-lamp just above the door handle, for continuous disinfecting.

He also gave some hints to architects and designers. “Avoid furniture or corners that are difficult to clean, and avoid ‘dust-collecting-features.’”

Technologic solutions

“In general there were mistakes but that is easy to say afterwards,” said Peter Hult, CEO of Vikand (maritime medical services, healthcare best practice partner). “The cruise industry has one of the highest standards of public health. However, the biggest problems started when authorities did not allow ships to disembark people in their ports. Cruise ships do have a small onboard hospital and normally this is enough, because high-level shoreside hospitals are never far away. That’s why they don’t have intensive care units. Now the situation was different. There were lots of people onboard ships, for several weeks, without being allowed to disembark. Crewmembers and guests died because of the inability to go ashore.”

“Testing is going to become a critical component, for guests and staff. It has to be efficient, accurate and affordable. In the beginning it took up to 48 hours before we knew if somebody was infected. New systems are on their way. New saliva-based tests do not even need a machine. It is a PCR approach (test tube). Twenty minutes later one knows. Another test, with a breathalyser, is also waiting for FDA approval. This means that testing will be possible, before embarking, when re-embarking after a shore excursion, or randomly.”

Peter Hult is pleased to see new products and technologies coming on the market, which will help to provide a safer environment. An example is the non-chemical surface sanitation products. “We love these no-rinse, natural, food grade products that have a faster virus and bacteria kill rate than conventional chemicals.”

“In the prevention protocols we also need to look at cross-contamination.” Peter Hult also reached out to the architects to design ‘no touch ships’, where doors open automatically, without buffet restaurants etc.

Some of the technologies he mentioned were the hydroxyls generators that can be installed in the HVAC. “These produce natural hydroxyls that reach everywhere, for deep elimination of all contaminants, everywhere. This is a green, natural, FDA-approved solution which creates an immune system for the ship.”

Every past guest knows the hand disinfecting stations at the entrances of restaurants. “This is an honoured-based system,” says Peter Hult. “Not everybody was doing it. New systems will disinfect and validate access. The system screens if you can pass or not. If you are not on the list of people that washed hands, that could be a problem in the restaurant, for example (both for crew and customer).”

“If as before, everything was about guest experience, we believe that a ship will now be defined by the standard of public health and health care,” said Peter Hult. “In addition to providing technology tools and testing, companies will also need to provide training. Every member of the staff should be part of the public health team.”


Hampton Bridwell, CEO and Managing Partner of Tenet, showed after research how the top customer drivers changed from experiences etc. (pre-Covid), to (amongst other things) health protection and hygiene post-Covid. “This is both a positive and negative driver, and companies will have to tackle this. It is a challenge but also an opportunity. Sitting back and waiting without innovation is a mistake. Brands now really have to put a stick in the ground about what they’re going to do.

It is a wonderful opportunity to create a deeper relation with the customer than ever before. I believe consumers are going to be yearning for these opportunities and these experiences, but they have to be different to what they were before.”

Article: Mike Louagie

The full two-hour webinar can be seen on YouTube:

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