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Press release

Press release

New research will enhance corona safety during cruises and help cruise lines to again attract passengers onboard

Researchers within Cell Biology and Industrial Management at Åbo Akademi University have developed models aimed at ensuring corona safety during cruises.

The coronavirus pandemic stopped the cruise industry more or less completely. Passenger ferry operators Tallink Silja and Viking Line lost 70–80 percent of their passengers, and their financial losses totalled tens of millions of euros. Major international cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation, largely suspended their cruises during 2020, which resulted in practically zero turnover and losses amounting to billions.

Upon assignment by Business Finland, an interdisciplinary research team has been working to find solutions for managing the current crisis as well as possible future pandemics. Within the Healthy Travel project, the researchers have developed models to describe work and passenger flows on vessels of different sizes as well as the need for testing in order to cost-effectively minimise the risk of embarkation of disease carriers.

– We have identified situations where the risk of spreading the virus is particularly high and developed processes and procedures to minimise the risks. Because the risk of infection spread is the largest when lots of people are gathered in confined spaces, we have primarily focused on embarkation and shared premises onboard, explains Magnus Hellström, Associate Professor in Industrial Management at Åbo Akademi University.

Moreover, the researchers have outlined how the different security levels can be used to prevent the virus from spreading onboard, depending on the infection situation. During a pandemic, the passenger numbers are limited and more attention is paid to cleaning the surfaces. Also, the need for queuing and times spent in shared premises can be reduced by, for example, offering electronic restaurant bookings. The risk of spreading the virus can further be mitigated by placing hand sanitizers and mask recommendations at entrances and by acquiring coronavirus test equipment for use during the cruise.

– Last spring in Japan, a virus outbreak originating from a single passenger onboard the Diamond Princess resulted in about 700 persons falling ill. The case showed how important it is to invest in relatively simple screening procedures for embarkation and safety routines during the cruise. Many of the measures implemented by cruise lines already create the conditions for much safer cruises than people may think, says Erik Niemelä, Project Researcher in Cell Biology at Åbo Akademi University.

Erik Niemelä, Jonas Spohr, Magnus Hellström, Johnny Långstedt, Anastasia Tsvetkova, Joakim Sjöblom, Fuad Khan, John E. Eriksson, Kim Wikström. Managing passenger flows during pandemics – reducing the risk of contracting infectious diseases during seaborne transportation. Manuscript under revision in the International Journal of Travel Medicine: 29.01.2021.

Figure: Preventative measures at check-in

More information:

Magnus Hellström, Associate Professor (tenure track). Industrial Management, Åbo Akademi University
Tel. +358 40 737 9980

Erik Niemelä, Project Researcher, Cell Biology, Åbo Akademi University
Tel. + 358 40 707 4400

Jonas Spohr, University Lecturer, Industrial Management, Åbo Akademi
Tel. +358 50 354 4466