Cruise Ships are ripe for spreading diseases

By Sarah, on December 02nd 2020

Several ocean liners have been turned away from ports…

Slowing the spread of Coronavirus on cruise ships

Covid-19 is the fast-moving coronavirus that has so far infected more than 80,000 people across the globe, and according to the World Health Organisation has pandemic potential. One of the biggest outbreaks occurred on board the British-registered Diamond Princess cruise ship. As of February 29, 2020, more than 700 passengers had been infected, and six killed by this infectious disease, which is closely related to the SARS virus. Coronavirus is affecting other cruise ships too.

Several ocean liners have been turned away from ports amid fears of the virus while the World Dream was holed up in Hong Kong for four days after it was linked to three cases. However, all crew and passengers later tested negative for the disease.

ht 14 optima washing with heat recovery installed on a marine ship

Floating Petri Dishes

Cruise ships are ripe for spreading diseases so much so that they’ve been called floating Petri dishes. Large numbers of individuals in proximity to each other enables the transmission of infectious diseases, often through interpersonal contact or via contaminated water or food.

To avoid contact with airborne particles that may be loaded with germs health authorities advise people to maintain a minimum distance of about two metres from potentially infected individuals. Onboard a cruise ship, this is almost impossible where everyone is in close quarters with plenty of face-to-face contacts, such as passing each other in corridors, sharing spa facilities and swimming pools and dining with each other. Port visits expose passengers to local diseases, and outbreaks can be sustained on board for several voyages by transmission among the crew and new sets of passengers.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, the most frequently reported cruise ship outbreaks involve GI (gastrointestinal) infections, respiratory infections and vaccine-preventable diseases such as chicken pox. More than 90% of GI outbreaks where the causes have been identified are due to Norovirus, which is sometimes referred to as the winter vomiting bug.

So, where does the current coronavirus outbreak leave the $45 billion cruise ship industry?

two rhima ht 14 optimas with heat recovery installed on a ship

Cruise Ship Industry in Peril at Sea

It has been two months since the first cases were detected in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province, and already the industry has been hit hard. Many operators are cancelling and adjusting itineraries, and the world’s three biggest cruise companies, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are among those that expect the virus to make a significant dent in this year’s earnings.

Carnival Corp, the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, said in early February that if it had to cancel all cruises in Asia through to April earnings would be down by $0.55 to $0.65 per share. By February 13, Royal Caribbean had cancelled 18 southeast Asia cruises and altered the itineraries of other sailings which it reckoned would knock $0.65 per share off of its 2020 earnings. There would be a further plummet of  $0.55 per share this year if it had to cancel all cruises through to the end of April. Meanwhile, after cancelling or changing 40 cruises in Asia, Norwegian expects to lower its projected earnings by about $0.75 per share.
It is also clear that the more the virus and news stories spread, the less inclined passengers will be to book a cruise. Operators will have an uphill struggle to recover from the financial damage and loss of public trust. Fortunately, it is not game over, not by a long shot.

corner image ht 14 optima with heat recovery installed on a ship

Vessel Sanitation

The health and safety of crew and passengers is, of course, the top priority, and many operators have introduced enhanced screening, prevention and control measures.
To help cruise ships prevent and control the introduction, transmission and spread of diseases such as GI illnesses, the CDC operates the Vessel Sanitation Programme. This involves training cruise ship employees on public health practices, making unannounced sanitation inspections of cruise ships, investigating and responding to outbreaks and providing up-to-date public health information to the industry.
The best defences against the spread of infectious diseases on cruise ships are frequent hand washing and scrupulous cleaning of machines, surfaces, equipment and reusable items such as plates, pans and bottles. A robust and properly maintained cleaning and disinfection system can help prevent and slow the spread of outbreaks.

cruise ship image

Slowing and Preventing Outbreaks

As a leading supplier and manufacturer of industrial, catering and medical washing equipment Rhima has the solutions and experience to help prevent the spread of viruses and contaminants onboard cruise ships. The Australian-based company can supply ocean liners with the Deko 190. This powerful washer-disinfector is also used by the healthcare and aged care industries to handle most ward cleaning tasks such as washing and disinfecting bedpans and lids, handwash basins, buckets, kidney bowls and more. It doesn’t just clean equipment but also apparatus used to clean up vomit and human waste, which dramatically reduces the health risk to staff.

Yearly thermal validation tests need to be performed on your washer-disinfector systems to ensure that they are working at maximum efficiency and providing the best possible protection to your customers and staff.
Rhima can arrange for thermal validation tests for your Deko units and HACCP testing on all other machines to be undertaken at your next port of call to reduce any inconvenience to cruise ship schedules.

Rhima also provides the cruise ship industry with a fast and reliable maintenance system if the machines break down. In September 2019, a cruise ship had a short stopover in Sydney and needed a machine to be installed. Rhima arranged for the machines, equipment and install team to be there when the ship arrived. While docked, the team conducted a site inspection and full installation and testing of a HT-14 Optima including changing the pumps and motors to match the ships power supply. When another cruise ship docked in Auckland with faulty machines, Rhima organised repair and maintenance during the short docking time frame.

For more information about how the experts at Rhima can help cruise ship operators avoid outbreaks of viral and bacterial infections, click here.

cruise ships at docks

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