25 Jan 2022

The spread of the Omicron variant among fully vaccinated passengers demonstrates the need for additional pandemic risk management tools for the cruise lines.

Just as the world was starting to see the light at the end of the Covid-tunnel during the summer and early fall of 2021, a new, highly contagious variant was discovered in South Africa in November, which spread rapidly to country after country.  Within a couple of months, the Omicron variant had become the dominant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the globe due to its extreme transmissibility.

Cruise lines, which had suffered tremendous financial losses since the start of the pandemic, had just been allowed to start their sailing itineraries again, and had implemented new requirements for passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated as well as requiring a negative Covid test before being allowed onboard.  Passengers were excited to finally embark on new adventures onboard their favorite cruise line, and everything looked promising.

Then Omicron happened, and media reports quickly followed that even fully vaccinated passengers could contract the virus while onboard, creating havoc again for the cruise industry. In fact, as we were ringing in the new year 2022, every US cruise line with active cruises reported incidents of virus transmission again, a feeling of déjà vu that we didn't want to experience again.  And adding to the agony already felt by the cruise lines, CDC advised the public to not go on a cruise for the time being, as a precaution against the fast-spreading omicron variant.

It is important to recognize that while vaccines can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, their primary function is to limit severe infection and hospitalization among those who do become infected. A vaccinated person can still become infected, develop high concentrations of virus in their upper respiratory system, and spread virus-laden particles through the air with normal expiratory activity (talking, singing, etc.). This means that enhanced ventilation and air filtration are a vital part of a layered risk reduction program, especially in places where people congregate to socialize, eat and drink.

Fortunately, the cruise lines are resilient and optimistic, and will invest even further in keeping passengers safe and comfortable onboard in the weeks and months to come, including new processes, new technology and support from 3rd party experts.

In a recent case study, Intertek Lintec looked at how an owner and operator of a large fleet of crude oil tankers in global trade had adopted several new procedures onboard their vessels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why a health risk management certification of their fleet aligns with their ambitions to be 'best in class' with respect to risk mitigation. (Read more)

Focused on reducing pathogen transmission risks, Protek Maritime Health Risk Management protects and assures passengers, crew and other stakeholders that recommended measures from IMO/WHO guidelines and industry best practices are being rigorously followed.

Intertek Lintec performs a complete health management assessment to identify and prioritize virus risk reduction strategies, guide implementation of preferred administrative and engineering controls (with emphasis on airborne transmission risk reduction) and provide compliance reporting and certification.

Beyond masks, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning, a comprehensive and strategic approach to reduce both airborne and direct contact transmission risks and provide assurance to stakeholders is needed.

The assessment will also identify opportunities to support the morale and wellbeing of seafarers. Protek Certification is achieved if applicable best practices for pathogen transmission risk reduction have been implemented. An important compliment to this offering to the maritime segment is Protek People Assurance, the on-demand eLearning and certification program empowering companies to deliver essential employee training on health and safety.

Protek Maritime also offer POSICheck, a service that takes an in-depth look at management commitment, infection control roles and responsibilities, training and resource allocation in addition to an assessment of the physical environment.

The POSICheck Standard is a response to the absence of a globally recognized standard for the Prevention of Spread of Infection (POSI) arrangements, and is designed to assist cruise ships with protecting passengers, crew and continuity of business.

Intertek Lintec's service offerings have continually expanded allowing Intertek Lintec to satisfy a vast range of services for the shipping community.


Hauk Wahl,
Business Development Manager
Intertek Lintec


Hauk is based in Houston, Texas and has more than 20 years experience with testing and inspection of marine fuels and lubricants in Europe, Middle East and the Americas.  He holds a BS degree in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University and a Master's degree from Norwegian School of Management in Oslo.

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