Gijs Streppel, head of ship theory at Meyer Werft, laid the foundation for the discussion explaining how continuous air exchange throughout the ship, in both cabins and public spaces, using multiple air conditioning units with filtration processes, ensures there is as much fresh air circulated as possible.
Particles in the air
Keeping the debate flowing moderator John Sifling, principal of Broad Reach Maritime, spoke of how everyone has become amateur virologists in the past year and how concerned we are about particles in the air.
Putting it all into perspective, Charlie Waddell, chief technical officer and founder of Global Plasma Solutions (GPS), explained there are well over 18m particles in one cubic foot of air and getting particle counts down goes a long way to reducing the transmission highway for all viruses.
Waddell reminded there are several kinds of filters and filtration systems fitted to HVAC systems which provide high quality air, ‘often higher than you see on land right now,’ and both experts underscored that studies have revealed there is no evidence of transmission of viruses via a ship’s HVAC system. However, ‘if you know you have an infected person(s) on board, the recommendation is to put them in isolation cabins which have a fully independent HVAC system,’ he reminded.
Looking at ways advanced technology could be fitted to mitigate risks, particularly in high density spaces such as the gym, theatre and dining areas, Weddell spoke of installing a pinpoint bipolar ionization unit.
The ionization process puts an electro static charge on molecules that are already in the air which either harms or kills the virus or, because it is electrostatically charged, the virus is either likely to fall out of the air or stick to filtration already installed in the HVAC system.
Existing ships have been retrofitted with bipolar ionization units alongside in port as this only requires drilling a 100mm round hole close to the area you want to reach, he said.
Suite of protective measures
In summary, all agreed there is a suite of protective measures around ventilation protection including advanced technologies to clean the air. But maintaining distance, wearing a mask and hand washing are all part of the process needed to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading.
‘A lot of effort has gone into drawing up protocols for the safe resumption of cruising and we have already seen that they are working so it’s a combination of solutions and a layered approach that will help keep everyone safe on cruise ships,’ remarked Streppel.