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In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, a project now underway to create a health framework for cruise ship guests comes as welcome news. The initiative, spearheaded by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its members in preparation for future operations, means that cruise lines will be well placed to operate vessels more regularly, when authorities say it’s safe to do so.

However, for cruise vessels expected to return to operation soon, it’s important to remember that meeting strict class items is essential. Currently, in the UK at least, there is a 90-day referral protocol in place for critical-class items. Essential social distancing measures limiting both class assessments and repairs, combined with a shortage of drydock space, create further barriers for cruise ships looking to get back into service.

By utilising strict safety guidelines to meet COVID-19 restrictions and observing all other health and safety standards, riding squads can safely carry out permanent class-approved structural steel repair and maintenance works through the use of ‘no hot work’ solutions while vessels are in operation to tight deadlines and key performance indicators.

SPS’s riding squads solution was established with a clear recognition that time is money. For a fully utilised cruise ship, daily earnings can be as much as millions of dollars. The impact of preventing sailing, not least given the urgent requirement for cruise lines to plug holes in their income projections for 2020 and beyond, could not be more costly.

The type of work undertaken by SPS’s riding squads that might normally be conducted alongside or in dry dock include permanent class approved structural steel repair projects for bulkheads, decks, in service tanks, machinery space upgrades and side shell protection. Such works will be essential for the safe operation of the vessel, and to enable a smooth transition from lay-up into a phased restart.

Crucially, after working with lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Cunard and P&O, riding squads have the experience to go onboard and carry out steel work almost unnoticed; causing minimum disruption and negating any costly downtime when commercial operations are allowed to restart, while – with careful planning – there is no need for ship-side support. The advantages of riding squads for cruise liners could not be more significant at this time.

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