Cruising has restarted in Singapore with the new mandatory CruiseSafe certification, which was jointly developed by risk assessment company DNV GL and Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Travel Weekly Asia speaks with Dr Shahrin Osman, regional head of Maritime Advisory, DNV GL — Maritime, South East Asia, Pacific & India, to find out more about the CruiseSafe certification.
TWA: DNV GL created the new CIP-M certification earlier this year. What are the unique challenges in designing and implementing ‘proven hospital standards’ for cruise ships?
Osman: Cruise ships and hospitals share many of the same facilities and services, so in large part we were able to translate the requirements in a fairly straightforward manner based on the infection risk level and the activities in different spaces onboard.
TWA: Is this certification robust enough to cover known and unknown infection risks on board (beyond Covid and norovirus)?
Osman: This certification is built around an infection prevention and control programme which is explicitly intended to cover infection risks from both known and emerging pathogens.
TWA: Was such health and safety certification or audit missing from the cruise industry earlier?
Osman: There were existing public health requirements and inspection regimes in place, but these were largely focused on food safety and known pathogens such as norovirus. As with other industries, the cruise industry has had to heighten awareness and implement new measures against SARS-CoV-2 as a novel and highly transmissible virus.
Sanitisation and fogging after a show on World Dream.
TWA: DNV GL has worked together with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to develop the CruiseSafe certification. Can you tell us more about this programme and what it entails?
Osman: The CruiseSafe programme combines STB's safe management measures that have been successfully implemented for land-based hospitality industry and integrated resorts in Singapore, with DNV GL’s industry leading CIP-M best practices applicable for cruise vessels globally. Singapore is also the first country in the world to develop and implement a mandatory audit and certification programme before cruise lines can resume sailings from the port of Singapore.
TWA: Besides STB and Genting Cruise Lines, which other tourism bodies or cruise lines in Asia-Pacific or the world are you working with to implement a robust certification programme?
Osman: We have received queries from other ports and authorities in Asia-Pacific and are currently at the initial stages of discussion. We believe that the success of the CruiseSafe certification programme in Singapore will inspire other tourism boards and maritime authorities to introduce similar programmes as part of the resumption of cruise sailings from their respective ports.
TWA: What were the most common areas that passenger vessels have to improve on?
Osman: One area of improvement is that there should be a more holistic perspective of infection risks as part of the existing incident and risk management processes and trainings. There is a tendency to focus on specific areas and pathogens, but not looking at the big picture of protecting against different transmission mechanisms. That being said, most vessels are improving their onboard arrangements to isolate infectious passengers and are looking at necessary modifications to HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) systems.
TWA: How long is the CIP-M certification valid for? How often do cruise ships need to be reassessed to retain the certification, and what's the audit process like?
Osman: Each CIP-M certificate is valid for three years, subject to an annual audit to maintain the certification. The audit is carried out by qualified infection preventionists and maritime management system auditors who will audit all relevant operations and areas of the ship.
TWA: What interesting facts or advice about infection risk prevention would you give to our travel agent readers?
Osman: There are many innovative and technological solutions being tested and developed to help combat infection risk, however the main and most effective defence continues to be proper hand hygiene, mask wearing and physical distancing. As with all other areas of life today, this does mean a somewhat different onboard experience, but cruise lines have so far been very effective at incorporating these essential safety measures into their product offerings.