[Originally published in Cruise Industry News’ Return to Service publication]
It is an unprecedented time for this industry and for every industry. As governments struggle to contain the pandemic and create a basis for economic recovery, it is down to each industry to look at innovative ways to return to work. What is undeniable is the will, from both industry and public, to find a way through this situation. We all want a return to normality, even if it is a new normal in the meantime.
Pedestrian dynamics evidence as the basis for risk assessments
The first common struggle of all businesses, maritime and on solid ground, is the reopening of offices. Every management team in the world is looking at office plans and how to perform an appropriate risk assessment: office plans, forgotten in some old dusty cupboard, have resurfaced and are being redrawn with circles around each employee to visualise the required safe space. 50/50 plans are being drawn up. One-way systems in the office implemented. No more shared areas, no more coffee breaks. The problem for cruise ships is similar but a few orders of magnitude larger. What procedures need to be put in place on cruise ships to ensure a safe environment for the crew and the passengers? If hotels, bars, restaurants and gyms are all reopening safely, then it must be possible for cruise ships as well. The question is how we take all the elements present and available in cruise ships and make solid plans for reopening in an industry where the burden of evidence seems to be higher.
Here at Safety at Sea, based in Glasgow, UK, we believe that our pedestrian dynamics software tool EVI™ is perfect for the task. EVI™, originally released in 2000, was designed with a primary focus of assessing the evacuation process and creating the evidence required for certification. EVI™ requires a model of all the spaces in the vessel and a starting position for all crew and passengers, referred to as agents. It then simulates the movement of all agents from their starting position towards their objective, which in an evacuation scenario is the muster stations. The overall evacuation time is calculated, the cornerstone of the regulations, but the software also evaluates and visualises areas of congestion, defined as a density threshold over time. EVI™ augments its capabilities with a scripting interface, allowing users to modify the simulation in a variety of ways: from setting specific objectives to individual agents, to closing or opening routes. This flexibility of the tool is at the heart of its use beyond evacuation analysis. In such manner, EVI™ has been used by customers to look at port turnaround times as well as for the optimisation of worker shift patterns on a vessel in a dry dock, providing a basis for the validation of fire safety plans.
Applying the same tool to the COVID-19 problem, EVI™ can be used to study and analyse differing procedures for the return to work of cruise vessels. This could be done both across the whole vessel or in a more localised scenario. The introduction of one-way systems is certainly a strategy that has been used in offices to minimise potential contact, and this could also be applied on the vessel. EVI™ could be used to evaluate the effectiveness of differing one-way systems on the layout of the vessel and provide evidence to back a specific strategy. Embarkation and disembarkation could also be simulated, and effective strategies implemented and then tested, to optimise both safety and efficiency. More localised problems can also be analysed, for example one-way systems in a pool area or a restaurant. EVI™’s inherent flexibility makes it an appropriate tool to help cruise operators create the analysis and evidence to back specific strategies to manage crew and passengers effectively and get back to offering their high level of service to eager customers.
Focus on Safe Return to Port operational compliance
As crucial as it is to deal with the new issues brought by the pandemic, it is important to get all passenger vessels prepared for the requirements of pre-existing regulation. Safe Return to Port (SRTP) is one such regulation with increasing focus from Flag authorities. SRTP’s main concept is that the vessel is its own best lifeboat and that hence preserving the functionality of its systems onboard in the case of a fire or a flood is a priority. SRTP therefore requires a specific set of systems to be resilient and attain a certain level of redundancy. Initially seen as affecting principally the design of vessels, recent focus has been on the requirements of the operators. The Bahamas Maritime Authority is the first Flag to set out a detailed explanation of the operator’s responsibilities with regards to SRTP in its Marine Notice 03.
SRtP Onboard™, Safety at Sea’s software tool, was designed to solve this specific problem in an efficient manner. With years of feedback from operators built in, it offers a tailored solution that focuses on providing clarity to the crew on what is required to be done in any SRTP scenario onboard the vessel. The software tool is much more than a digitised and verified set of instructions for operators, but it also aims at managing the complexity of the crew response, supporting the operator in assessing and distributing all required actions to response teams and monitoring progress and issues in real time. Drills and casualty responses are recorded for further analysis and as evidence of regulatory compliance. Ultimately, SRtP Onboard™ is a living and improving knowledge base onboard married with a proven process to deal with the requirements of Safe Return to Port.
Safety at Sea is organising webinars on both EVI™ and SRtP Onboard™ in mid-September 2021. An hour long, these webinars will explain the relevant regulatory background as well as providing a demonstration of the tools. For any interest on the tools or for an invitation to either or both webinars, please send your details to firstname.lastname@example.org