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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
16/03/20 10:37

A hospital ship might be deployed in the ports of Genoa and Palermo to tackle Covid-19

The shipowner Aponte is willing to provide the ferries of MSC’s subsidiary GNV, and also Moby is ready to provide its vessels. However the fitting out of ships will not be easy due to ventilation issues. Costs will be incurred by the Italian Civil Protection Department

Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), within MSC Group, is ready to offer several ferries – and possibly also cruise ships – with hospital functions to provide additional beds to the Italian Health System which is under pressure due to the spread of Covid-19, as the World’s Health Organization announced that the virus is pandemic.

Besides Aponte’s group, also other shipping groups are willing to help, including also Moby/Tirrenia, belonging to the shipowner Vincenzo Onorato.

The possible ferries to be provided by GNV, which involved also RINA, are Superba, Suprema and Splendid, while MSC Opera (which stopped in Genoa because cruise passengers where not able to reach the port) might supply additional beds.

As Liguria Governor Giovanni Toti explained, the ships could be devoted to three categories of patients: those who have been discharged from hospital but need additional hospitalization to recover completely; people with mild Coronavirus symptoms who could remain in isolation at home but would rather choose this option because they do not have anyone at home to help them buying food or medicines, or because they do not want to infect their relatives; patients with other diseases in order to support hospitals.

However, Health Authorities posed several issues: for instance, most cabins on the ferries are not equipped with direct ventilation. “In the garage of the vessels, 1,800 square meters might host intensive care units, with some 500 cabins equipped with direct internal/external ventilation, as well as an isolated air circulation system. I immediately informed Sicilian Region President Nello Musumeci about this, but this could be an additional solution in case of emergency”, Western Sicilian Sea Port Authority president Pasqualino Monti explained to Ship2Shore.

“We are preparing additional beds because we might have to face an emergency. The Government will ask private clinics to provide their support, while we ordered universities to employ postgraduates. The port authority of Palermo confirmed that one shipowner is ready to provide a cruise ship with a hundred beds and health care staff in case of emergency. However, at present we recorded 64 positive cases and no deaths. We can rely on 411 intensive care units, but we need 200 additional units”, Musumeci added.

The other problem concerns costs to adapt ferries to hospital functions and to charter the ship. Most costs will be incurred by the Italian Civil Protection Department, as in the case of the hotels to provide accommodation after an earthquake. In fact, if fitting ships out is too difficult or too expensive, hotels might be a good alternative, not only in Genoa and Palermo.

However, Toti seems optimistic: “We might have one of these ships ready in ten days. Nursing and medical staff would be provided by the Health System”.

Another option might be the Italian Navy’s flagship Cavour, which is equipped with two operating theatres, one intensive care unit, one burn centre, three hospitalization halls, two clinics, one CAT-radiological department, one dental laboratory and one drugstore, for a total of 32 beds. “At present, we have not asked for it since such measures fall within the Italian Government’s competence. If it is necessary to hospitalize patients coming from other regions in Northern Italy, we would be ready to welcome them in our port”, Toti explained.