As I sit, here in my little broom cupboard of an office, down on deck 1, with no windows, only the office door that opens out onto an officers corridor, which is great for watching ‘the walk of shame’ first thing (more on those later). In front of me is a document marked ‘dry-dock contingency’, every few years, a ship has to enter dry-dock for essential maintenance, very much like a car having its MOT, ships have to be taken out from the water and checked from the bottom all the way to the top.
Planning for a dry-dock, generally starts the moment the ships re-enter service following it’s previous dry-dock, depending on where the ship is in the world, it might be completed in Asia, Europe, Bahamas or the United States, generally a ship will dry-dock in the same location, however it is not always the case. As we know if something can happen, it generally will happen and more than likely when we least expect it!
Must admit, I am a little bit late in reading through the document prior to Captain’s meeting being held at 10:30, to talk this through, in preparation for dry-dock, which is not due to take place for at least 2 months, once we are back in the United States. However the ship has had a wee bumpy ride whilst we are in the Mediterranean, and we still have to do a trans-Atlantic crossing prior reaching Florida, and then Freeport, Bahamas. Which is where we shall enter dry-dock for a 10 period, the moment we leave our winter home port for Freeport, work will be started around the clock 24/7.
Flicking through the document, I found my relevant section, which includes but not limited to setting up additional teams for security patrol, housing contractors, crew cabin renovation, crew bar renovation, repatriation of crew prior, during and post dry-dock, riding crew, and the list continues…. With everything that we do and plan for, we also have to ensure that we have thought of every varying scenario, including if we have an ‘out-break’ and how we would house everyone to ensure all are safe, almost dividing the ship into various isolated areas.
Whilst in dry-dock, we in essence have a rotating team within the ship, that would cover 12-4 / 4-8 / 8-12 this generally follows the OOW (Office of Watch) standard watchkeeping, then with contractors they will be doing a 12 on / 12 off rotation, and potentially hot-bedding, depending on the amount of work that would be needed to be completed.
The phone rang, it was budget, wondering why I was not in her office at the agreed time to meet before heading up to Captain. Thankfully, we were in port, which meant that the guests had gone ashore and therefore a quick flight of stairs saw me in the main reception area. Budget. (a nickname for a colleague, who was responsible for all the cash onboard). We made our up to Deck 10 fwd. and the Captain’s day room, the added bonus for budget and I, was that we reported into the Captain, and for myself I actually was a member of the Deck Department, which means the most amazing coffee onboard, especially when the Staff Captain is Italian.
I digress, so when we are talking about contingency planning, and a dry-dock, for my part anyway, this had included the locating of various international / domestic airports that we could use prior, during, and following the dry-dock. Oh, and the office have now sold a 3-day charter, which means a shorter dry-dock period, much to the frustration of Staff Captain Umbaldo, this now also means work being either cancelled or running up to literally the last minute. This news deserves an extra shot of coffee or two for sure.
We cannot push back, say no, or how about, we have been told that the dry-dock is now only going to be 7 days, which is tight indeed. This now means, looking at all options with all department heads to determine what jobs are cut back. And yes, you guessed it the majority of work being stopped will be within the crew areas, although, am assured it will be fixed, oh and it was, that’s another story for later on!
Within any sector of Hospitality, Travel & Tourism, you must have various contingency plans in place, that can assist and or mitigate any scenarios that are likely to pop-up. With the current COVID-19 Panicdemic ( I write that as feel the media have and are causing mass hysteria and global panic) Although the cruise sector has been hit hard, they are always hit hard, when something happens within such a confined environment, up till now it has always been due to a fire, norovirus outbreak or mechanical failure. Majority will be due to media outlets reporting or passengers and crew themselves.
What you may not realise, is that a cruise ship or any vessel entering port must complete a declaration of health form. Whereby if a % of passengers or crew are ill it must be reported by law. The amount is generally within single digits, yet those staying in hotels / resorts / flying do not have to do so, nor declare this to department of health. Why not, no idea, may be that will change in the future.
What you may now be aware of, is the at present the cruise sector, will have enhanced protocols, hygiene standards, housekeeping and contingency plans, already written and in place. Unfortunately, many other businesses will not have anything like this in place, and are wondering what to do, one thing for sure is that we do not need to reinvent the wheel at all.
The ground work has already been done and is in place, all of these protocols, safety management systems, quality management systems, and policies etc, already meet and exceed CDC (Centre Disease Control), USPH (United States Public Health), UKPH (United Kingdom Public Health) PS (Port State), USGC (United States Coast Guard), MCA (Marine Coastguard Agency), IMO, ILO, SOLAS, STCW and the list goes on. Each ship must by law meet or exceed these standards, no matter where they are sailing. Which in real terms, means that all the legwork, preparation has already been done and is already in place and works, so why reinvent the wheel.
Some elements for sure, need to be defined, such as social distancing etc, however why re-write your operations manual, housekeeping protocols, isolation outbreak guidelines exist in one format or another. For those within remote locations, like the Maldives, your resort operations set-up is the same as you will find onboard a ship, only difference is that you do not sail anywhere.
For those resorts, who have a Resort Dr or Nurse, are they up to speed with outbreak protocols, what support do they have if anything was to happen on a resort, can you lock-down and stop all movement immediately, isolate everyone in individual rooms. Again, these protocols are process are already in place and exist.