MSC Cruises has also announced the forming of an expert group to help it develop protocols to resume sailings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am pleased to announce that the work of our task force is being further supported by the formation and engagement of a Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group for consultation on protocols and planning, as well as bringing additional specialised advice to augment our own existing resources and knowledge,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman (pictured).
“The objective of our Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group in the fields of medicine, public health, and/or related scientific disciplines, is to create a group of highly qualified and internationally respected experts to inform and review our initiatives as they relate to COVID-19 to help ensure that the actions taken are appropriate, effective and informed by the best available science and health practices.
“For this reason, this Expert Group will have competency to review policy initiatives, technical innovations and operational measures related to COVID-19. It will remain in place long beyond our return to operations to ensure we benefit from their know-how and input even as the situation continues to evolve and more data become available,” he said.
The panel includes – Prof Christakis Hadjichristodoulou, Professor of Hygiene and Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine, as well as its Vice President, School of Health Sciences, University of Thessaly, Greece; Prof Stephan Harbarth, Head of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at the Faculty of Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals (HUG); and Dr Ian Norton, a Specialist Emergency Physician with post graduate qualifications in Surgery, International Health and Tropical Medicine who was also formerly the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Medical Team Initiative programme from 2014 to January, 2020.
MSC has also set up an in-house task force with expertise in medical services, public health, sanitation, ventilation and other shipboard engineering systems, IT and logistics. It has also engaged the global health consultancy, Aspen Medical to assist in development of its protocols and procedures.
Bud Darr, MSC Group’s Executive Vice President for Maritime Policy and Government Affairs, explained: “Since the early days when it came to the development of our new health and safety operating protocol, we have been in continuous consultation with regional, national and local public health authorities including, among others, those in Europe, US, Brazil and China – both directly and through the industry association, CLIA.
“To this end, some of the company’s most detailed engagement and contribution took place with EU-level authorities responsible for public health, as it relates to cruise ships. This has recently resulted in the issuance of the EU Healthy Gateways interim guidance, amongst others, and that national health authorities across the Continent are currently reviewing,” he said.
MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol – details of which will are still to be announced – is designed to meet and exceed guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies including the WHO, the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action and European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), as well as regulations introduced by several governments of the countries that MSC ships operate, the company claimed.