MSC Cruises has become the first international cruise line that operates in Japan to receive a health and safety certification from the country’s official maritime classification society ClassNK, a major step forward towards MSC Cruises’ operational restart in the country scheduled for April 2021.
The certification of MSC Cruises’ industry-leading health and safety protocol for Biosafety Management System (COVID-19) now paves the way for the line to open sales in December to local residents for cruises homeporting in Japan and start to work with ports in the country to prepare for the upcoming season.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, said, “We are extremely pleased to have received this certification and are now confident that we will be able to restart our Japan operation serving the local market by April 2021.”
Junichi Hirata, ClassNK’s General Manager of Innovation and Sustainability Department, said, “This is the first important step of a longer-term plan for MSC Cruises to resume Japanese cruise operations in the first half of 2021, and we will now work closely with the line towards that goal.”
Hiroya Nakano, Director-General of City of Yokohama’s Port and Harbor Bureau, agreed, “It is great news that MSC Cruises has received this certificate of approval from ClassNK for its health and safety guidelines. The Port of Yokohama is committed to cooperate accordingly for the re-starting of international cruises in spring 2021.”
Health and safety operating protocols of port authorities in Japan and MSC Cruises will also follow guidelines established by JOPA, the Japan Oceangoing Passenger Ship Association.
MSC Bellissima, which was launched in 2019, will be deployed to Japan, homeport in Yokohama to sail six to nine-night cruises in April, May and June 2021. She is also scheduled to operate in the country during October and November 2021.
Mr. Onorato added: “To be the first international cruise line in Japan to be awarded this key certification of compliance is a further testament to our robust and rigorous health and safety protocol which led the way for the entire global industry in August when we became the first major line to resume cruise operation in the Mediterranean.
“We have now safely and responsibly carried more than 30,000 customers in the Mediterranean and can now look forward to offering the same for our guests who live in Japan.
“Our industry-leading protocol, as well as the unique sets of data gathered through the operation of our two ships calling Italy, Greece and Malta during the past few months, is currently being reviewed by authorities in other regions where the Company’ other ships are scheduled to restart.
“We believe, therefore, that this certification — in a country where the industry was at the center of much attention very early in the pandemic — and the confirmation by authorities in Italy through their latest ministerial decree that cruising can continue, will go a long way to demonstrate the trust that we have been able to build with the protocol’s effective measures and their rigorous application for the benefit of guests, crew and the communities we serve.”
European classification society RINA last month awarded MSC Cruises with its biosafe ship additional class notation for the line’s flagship MSC Grandiosa which is currently operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
RINA had previously verified that the MSC Cruises health and safety protocol met and went beyond the high standards of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Joint Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.
The verification that the protocol was aligned with the guidance of the two key European authorities was a crucial part of the process to enable the August restart of MSC Cruises’ operations in the Mediterranean.
MSC Cruises health and safety protocol
MSC Cruises in mid-August became the first major cruise line to resume sailing following the global shutdown of the industry in March caused by the pandemic ashore.
MSC Grandiosa, the Company’s flagship, set sail on Sunday, August 16 from Genoa in Italy with guests on board for the first of her 7-night voyages in the Western Mediterranean.
This was achieved following approvals from the relevant authorities in Italy, Malta and Greece of an industry-leading health and safety protocol designed to protect the wellbeing of all guests, crew and communities to be visited.
This industry-leading protocol, which was designed at the outset to adapt to a fluctuating health situation ashore, was recently strengthened in line with the current evolution of the pandemic in mainland Europe, with a series of enhanced rigorous measures.
The additional measures include the following:
- Additional on-board antigen testing for COVID-19 of all guests mid-way through their cruise which are on top of the existing pre-boarding universal testing for all guests;
- Frequency of testing of all crew during their time on board increased from twice-a-month to weekly, which is in addition to pre-boarding testing for all crew and other ongoing health monitoring measures;
- Increased frequency of onboard sanitation, in particular of public areas and high touch points;
- Tightening of the definition of close contact for tracing purposes, reducing the time that individuals are in contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.
The MSC Cruises protocol is based on nine key elements, many of which have been adopted by other cruise companies, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and international airlines and airports.
- Testing of all guests at least twice per voyage
- Testing of all crew at least three times before embarkation and weekly on board
- Only protected shore excursions, as organized ‘social bubbles’
- Ventilation with HVAC fresh air
- Contingency response that does not burden local health infrastructures
- Isolation space on board and tracking and tracing including close contacts
- Physical distancing – aided by reduced capacity of the ship
- And COVID-19 prevalence monitoring
MSC Cruises’ protocol with its newly activated measures continues to be managed by a cross-functional task force comprised of in-house experts in the areas of medical services, public health and sanitation, hotel services, heating and ventilation, air conditioning, shipboard engineering systems, information technology and logistics.
For more information and to book a cruise onboard MSC Meraviglia guests can contact their preferred travel advisor or visit www.msccruises.com
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