Using Vessels as Floating Hospitals

Carnival Sunshine at sea, soon to be used as a floating hospital
Carnival Sunshine

It would be a severe understatement to say that the coronavirus has had a global impact – and the cruise industry has arguably felt this most keenly. Without negating or diminishing the severity of the situation in the cruise industry, and around the world, we’d like to share some positive news. As such, we will be sharing good news, efforts, and incidents relating to COVID-19 and the cruise industry. Today we’re looking at the possibilities of using vessels as floating hospitals, with examples from MSC/GNV, currently in use in Genoa; Carnival Corporation; and Saga Cruises.

GNV Splendid

Taking under a week to be fully converted into a working hospital, the MSC Splendid ferry, operated by GNV, is being used in Genoa to increase availability of accommodation for those needing medical assistance due to the coronavirus, opening up space in inland hospitals for those who aren’t, but need serious medical help. Helping to alleviate the strain on Ligurian health facilities, the project was fully supported by the mayor of Genoa, Marco Bucci, and executed with the help of Ligurian Governor, Giovanni Toti.

The speedy turnaround was thanks to a number of factors – for a start, such ships are already fully equipped for a number of emergencies. With built-in fire doors, ventilation systems separating the cabins and public spaces, and water treatment plants on board, ships are already prepared for emergencies such as fires and floods – meaning standard hospital emergency procedures can be easily adhered to.

Carnival Corporation

On March 19th, Carnival Corporation announced that select ships from across its cruise line brands, including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess, and P&O Australia, would be made available for use as temporary hospitals. Calling upon governments and health authorities to consider using cruise ships as healthcare facilities, Carnival explained that their ships are able to be provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 rooms to contain patients suffering from less critical, non-COVID-19 conditions – opening up space in inland hospitals. As well as this, the vessels would be able to provide up to seven intensive care units.

Saga Cruises

Following the suspension of cruises worldwide, Saga Spirit of Discovery and Sapphire are currently docked in Tilbury, Essex, after being turned away from their home port of Southampton due to limited space. Saga Cruises have proposed to the UK Government the use of the two ships as temporary hospitals, adding an extra 2,000 cabins to the effort, and freeing up space in NHS hospitals.

It is a feasible option to use cruise ships as hospitals, and one that governments around the world now have the option of considering. The safety-conscious design of cruise ships and ferries, coupled with stringent regulations that operators are tied to during the design phase, means that vessels are already equipped for emergencies – and are able to be quickly converted, as proven by MSC Splendid in Genoa.

Read our statement on COVID-19 here

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