Q&A: ship design standards
post-Covid-19 with Foreship

Ship design and engineering firm Foreship has launched Project Hygiea, the company’s four-step plan to build vessels that are resistant to the spread of coronavirus. Ilaria Grasso Macola speaks to Foreship sales and marketing vice-president Mattias Jörgensen to find out what is required to prevent the spread of pathogens on board. 

Viking Cruises hotel general manager Joachim Scherz.

Foreship sales and marketing vice-president Mattias Jörgensen . Image: Foreship


he closure of borders and social distancing norms implemented by countries to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has dealt the cruise industry a hard blow, with ships often blamed for the quick spread of the virus. 

According to a report published by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), in the UK, a 90-day suspension of cruise trips would lead to a £2.37bn economic loss and to 13,788 people losing their jobs.

To help the global sector “get back on its feet”, Finnish ship engineering company Foreship has developed a new framework to stop the spread of coronavirus or other pathogens on board of passenger ships. 

The four steps include intercepting the biohazards, preventing the virus from spreading, isolating the pathogen and evacuating the most serious cases. 

Mattias Jorgensen explains how the project came about and why projects such as Hygiea are needed if cruise ships want to sail again.

Ilaria Grasso Macola:

How did the project come about and when did you start working on it?

MATTIAS JÖRGENSENEver since this pandemic started, the tourism industry was hit quite hard. We initiated Hygiea in March as an internal project to evaluate what we could do to help the industry, as well as how we would evaluate the spread of a virus onboard vessels.

I think everybody will agree that we are literally in the same boat; we need to work together to find a solution in order to get the industry back on its feet.

Can you tell me a bit more about the four phases and what they entail on a technical level?

Our solution consists of four different stages. The first one is intersection, which aims at not letting the disease on board.

The second one is prevention, i.e. not letting the disease spread if it gets on board. The third one consists of mitigating the disease, while the fourth one is evacuating critical cases. 

Those are the four different topics that we are addressing when we are doing our analysis of the vessel.

As we realised that there is no silver bullet in attacking this pandemic, the approach needs to draw from a multitude of different processes, from design changes to technology upgrades. 

Viking Cruises hotel general manager Joachim Scherz.

Image:  Foreship

Given that we are engineers at heart, we used a risk analysis format called hazard and operability analysis (HAZOP). We thought that it might be a very good approach to analyse the situation because there is a problem and we need to analyse it and see how it affects the vessel. 

Only by running this process can we identify what technologies, procedures or design changes are needed to ensure that there is as much prevention as possible.

You mentioned technologies and design changes. Can you tell us more about that?

There are many different kinds of changes that could be done. When we're looking at a vessel, we not only need to look at physical spaces but also flows that go through them. 

By identifying the flow and analysing it, you can pinpoint where the risks and, once identified, you can find a mitigating safeguard to ensure you have a good process behind it.

When talking about phase two, you mentioned stringent hygiene measures and optimising space. Can you tell us more?

There are a tonne of hygiene technologies that can be used. For example, you might be looking at filter shore or UV lights for ventilation systems or at coatings for wall coverings.

There is a multitude of different technologies which have to be filtered to ensure that we adapt the right technology to the right problem. 

Implementing a technology doesn't necessarily solve the problem if you don't identify it first.

You already mentioned HAZOP analysis. Can you tell us more?

The HAZOP in itself is an IEC standard type of approach for identifying risks. The process starts by identifying the risk areas, and then collecting the information from the vessel. 

The information goes through a series of workshops, where we identify, alongside the stakeholders, the risk rating for different areas, looking at what the existing safeguards are and what additional ones could be applied. 

The final output is a report stating recommendations moving forward, while after the HAZOP there still need to be feasibility studies to ensure the technology would be applicable for this particular project. But that will be Hygiea’s second stage.

What are the project's advantages?

Viking Cruises hotel general manager Joachim Scherz.

Image:  Foreship

The project’s advantage is that it has a collaborative approach as it really involves all the stakeholders.

And by having all the stakeholders at the same table, you support ideas and potentially solve problems that might not have been thought of initially.

What are the main issues that you have encountered while developing the project?

The pandemic is a different kind of problem and therefore the process had to be adjusted. Given that facts change on a daily basis, this has been a learning process in itself.

The continuously updated information is, of course, a challenge but that is when an engineering approach is good because it enables us to document every stage as we go along, so it’s easy to roll back if there are new scientific developments.

What is the future of Hygiea? Do you think you will develop it for future potential pandemics?

Viking Cruises hotel general manager Joachim Scherz.

We realised quite quickly into the process that although we were focused on the pandemic at hand, we are looking at it on a broader basis. The project does not necessarily have to do only with Covid-19 but it tackles the spread of viruses and pathogens aboard vessels in general, which will be beneficial to the industry. 

In your opinion, how has the current COVID-19 pandemic changed the industry?

It's still too early to identify how the pandemic has and will change the industry, but we firmly believe that the industry will get back on its feet, stronger and better prepared. 

There will be of course moments which will feel different for cruise passengers but I think that is a natural process for the relaunch phase itself.

In relation to the spread of pandemics, how do you think that the industry will cope with this new normality?

The coronavirus pandemic has been a shock to everybody in the industry, but I think that a unified effort from technology and service providers like us, as well as shipowners, will deliver a better industry after this has passed. 

I believe the future will be bright and the sector will be even better when it gets back on its feet.

Cover image credit: Uniworld

Cover image credit: Uniworld