While cruise lines have adopted extensive health and safety protocols in response to Covid-19 — and travel restrictions are starting to ease as vaccination rates increase — this question remains top of mind for many health officials, passengers and crews.

The success of efforts to reactivate idle tonnage and capitalise on pent-up demand for leisure travel in the months ahead hinges on close collaboration between operators, trade organisations, regulators and other stakeholders.

That’s according to Andreas Ullrich, the business development manager for passengerships and ferries at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore (BV).

“Adopting a standard, established framework for virus prevention that also focuses on preparedness will provide much needed confidence in health and safety measures,” he explains. “The only way to achieve this is by working together.”

Setting the tone for safety

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, BV was swift in its response to calls for health, safety and hygiene guidance across the value chain. It developed a suite of solutions aimed at facilitating the prompt reopening of businesses by providing extensive protections for vulnerable personnel.

The “Restart your Business” initiative and SafeGuard Label associated with it provided a framework for ferry operators, in particular, to continue operating during the pandemic. Today, these same protocols are central to the French classification society’s new Biorisk notations, which have emerged as mechanisms for shipowners in all sectors to adopt best practices and demonstrate their adherence to strict health and safety measures.

The first vessel to receive the Biorisk Secured notation was the 6,334-berth MSC Virtuosa when MSC Cruises accepted delivery in February. Photo: MSC Cruises

While the notations are suitable for all types of tonnage, Ullrich notes they leave cruise lines particularly well-placed to resume operations when conditions allow.

“These standards, which were developed in close collaboration with shipyards, shipowners and other industry partners, will help mitigate risks associated with Covid-19 but other variants and other viruses as well, not just now in the near-term, but also well into the future,” he adds. “Risk can never be eliminated entirely. The notations ensure risk is minimised to the lowest extent possible.

“The notations are designed to evolve, as needed, in response to future threats. Much of our approach is similar to that of the IMO, which is moving away from prescriptive requirements to goal-based standards.”

Protecting crew and passenger safety with new notations

BV’s new notations include Biorisk Managed and Biorisk Secured. The former, which focuses on the establishment and implementation of a comprehensive outbreak management plan, follows the core principles of Restart your Business, which requires the identification of all potential infectious disease risks in port, at embarkation and disembarkation points, and on the ship itself.

Biorisk Managed also outlines the responsibilities of passengers and crew in the event of an outbreak, PPE and medical equipment requirements, behavioural and operational recommendations, and training specifications.

Spaces and systems, such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), are also addressed.

Biorisk Secured requires the installation of disinfection systems and other pieces of hardware. It also contains equipment provisions, such as devices that monitor the body temperatures of passengers and crew.

As TradeWinds has reported, BV has played a pivotal role in the development of protocols for crew changes during the coronavirus pandemic. When it joined Singapore’s crew change task force, it was able to draw on the organisation’s experience working with a number of large hotel chains on processes to safeguard staff and guests against the coronavirus and adapt these for the marine sector.

In a recent video interview with TradeWinds Content Studio, executive vice president Matthieu de Tugny made a similar observation, noting BV’s experience in sectors such as food, hospitality and retail aided in the rapid development of the Biorisk notations for ships.

The first vessel to receive the Biorisk Secured notation was the 6,334-berth MSC Virtuosa when MSC Cruises accepted delivery in February.

The future is looking bright for BV. Last month, the marine division reported revenue of EUR 94.1m for first quarter of 2021, which represents organic growth of roughly 3.4% year-on-year. In a separate development, it was appointed by cruise operator Carnival Corp to provide health and safety services to facilitate the return to cruising.