Over the past months since temporarily halting its cruise operation in connection with the development of the global health pandemic ashore, MSC Cruises says it has been working to develop a new health and safety operating protocol to support its return to service once the time is right.
Having set up a task force comprising in-house experts in the areas of medical services, public health and sanitation, hotel services, HVAC and other shipboard engineering systems, information technology and logistics, MSC Cruises also consulted with Aspen Medical to further assist with the development of the company’s enhanced protocol and procedures. The task force was given the title "Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group."
“The objective of our Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group ... 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,” Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, said in an announcement. “For this reason, this 'Expert Group' will have competency to review policy initiatives, technical innovations or operational measures related to COVID-19.”
MSC Cruises’ Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group includes: Professor Christakis Hadjichristodoulou, professor of hygiene and epidemiology in the faculty of medicine and vice president, School of Health Sciences at the University of Thessaly in Greece; Professor Stephan J. Harbarth, hospital epidemiologist, infectious diseases specialist and head of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at the Geneva University Hospitals and faculty of medicine; and Dr. Ian Norton, a specialist emergency physician with post graduate qualifications in surgery, international health and tropical medicine, currently managing director of Respond Global, formerly the head of the World Health Organization Emergency Medical Team Initiative program from 2014 until January 2020.
Bud Darr, MSC Group’s EVP for maritime policy and government affairs, added that the company is focusing on working with authorities in countries along the Mediterranean, where MSC expects “a potential resumption of cruise operation following the now nearly completed and successful reopening of other travel and leisure activities across the region.”
Details of MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol will be announced soon. In the U.S., the company has indicated that it will only return to service once the necessary approvals have been received from the relevant local and national authorities in the U.S., including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as across the region where the ships will operate.