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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
20/03/20 10:29

Liguria Region and GNV signed the deal: the ferry Splendid hosted first persons infected with Coronavirus

Some 25 single cabins for the less serious cases, thus relieving Genoese hospitals. The model might be used in other ports; also Grimaldi and Moby are ready to provide their ships

Following the agreement reached by Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), a subsidiary of MSC group belonging, and the Liguria Region, the hospital ship Splendid can welcome the first persons infected with Coronavirus in order to relieve city hospitals.

As anticipated by Ship2Shore, they have been working to turn the cabins on deck 7 into hospital rooms by removing the partition wall in order to provide doctors and nurses with wider areas, and by adapting the electrical system. They are also creating a “protected corridor” with PVC strips in order to prevent infections onboard. The problem related to ventilation in the cabins was solved: the ventilation system of the rooms will be completely independent from the rest of the ship.

GNV provided the ferry for free (its charter cost ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 euro per day, depending on its use) and it also incurred the expenses to turn it into a hospital, with the collaboration and under the supervision of RINA and Local Health Authorities. The company will also provide most of the staff onboard, from cooks to deck staff and engineers. The Region, the Italian Health System and the Department of Civil Protection will provide medical staff and nurses, who will work onboard, as well as the necessary medical devices, and they will appoint companies specialised in cleaning and sanitation of rooms for sick people.

From Thursday the ship can welcome 25 persons in single comfortable rooms. Initially, the ferry will welcome only patients who are not seriously ill, i.e. those who do not need intensive care and pulmonary ventilation. This will allow to relieve city hospitals. In the meantime, however, they will create additional rooms on decks 8 and 9 and, if necessary, they will create an intensive care unit inside the ferry’s garage.  

In fact, unlike cruise ships, ferries have a very large hold with very high ceilings, therefore they are suitable for this use.

The ferry Splendid could become a “model” for other ports, also because the company proved to be able to fit out its ships in less than 7 days. This possibility has already been taken into consideration in Palermo, by Port Authority President Pasqualino Monti, in agreement with Governor Nello Musumeci. However, other GNV’s ferries such as Rhapsody or Allegra can be transferred and fitted out in record times in any Italian ports, and this example might also be followed abroad.

This is not the first time that one GNV’s ferry is used for humanitarian purposes. Between 2017 and 2018, GNV Suprema hosted FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) staff for 5 months, as well as several injured people after a hurricane hit Puerto Rico.

At present GNV Splendid is moored in the historical port of Genoa, where they are trying to find the most suitable place for it.

The debate about the possibility to fit out a series of hospital ships to face the coronavirus emergency involves the whole nation. In fact, similar infrastructure might become necessary both in Genoa and in other port towns and, besides MSC-GNV, several shipowners are ready to provide ferries for this purpose, such as Moby and Manuel Grimaldi.

However, the owner of the Grimaldi group emphasized a series of issues, starting from the need to apply clear procedures to find the vessels to be used for health purposes: “We thought that some of our ships might be provided to the Civil Protection, as suggested by our colleague in Genoa”, declared Grimaldi, adding that this will require “special calls for tender, characterized by utmost transparency, procedures might be simplified as in the case of the reconstruction of the Morandi bridge in Genoa”.

The shipowner also referred to another important issue concerning the necessary timings to adapt ferries for this unusual purpose: “We will need significant technical works, for example concerning sanitary ventilation. In fact, we will not be able to equip ships in a few days”.

Grimaldi assumed that “in the best possible scenario, we could be ready at the beginning of the summer, but by that time I hope we will not need such ships anymore”.