Sailing in safe hands with Columbia Cruise Services

Jon Ingleton asks Olaf Groeger about the comprehensive programme Columbia Cruise Services has developed to help its managed fleet restart cruise operations

Sailing in safe hands with Columbia Cruise Services
Columbia Cruise Services is helping Marella Cruises to develop new health and safety protocols

Columbia Cruise Services (CCS) has put together a Health and Hygiene Consultancy Project Team with a unique set of experts in the fields of public health, hotel services and technical operations. The team is developing holistic and tailor-made health and hygiene programmes for cruise operations and hotels. “Our consultancy programme offers the 3-steps of services to suit individual business needs, clientele, budgets and health and hygiene goals,” says Olaf Groeger, managing director of CCS.

The team starts by assessing a cruise operator’s business to help plan for the resumption of commercial operations. “We work through the most up-to-date information and procedures in line with all of the major public health guidance that is applicable to an organisation’s business practices,” says Groeger. “We address business continuity planning, including risk management prior to a disease outbreak, support in the event of an outbreak, and assistance in returning to operations afterwards. Our team of experts provide a complete outbreak management service, including company and guest prevention plans and advanced outbreak management plans.”

EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action was the first internationally recognised expert group to release interim advice for restarting cruise ship operations after lifting restrictive measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic on 30 June 2020. “This important initial guidance for the cruise industry is fundamentally in line with the generically implemented land-based rules and regulations in European countries,” says Groeger. “But the response from other organisations on resuming services has been rather slow, especially when taking into consideration that the vast majority of cruise lines have already published their new individual health and hygiene protocols.”

To support its cruise clients as they prepare to resume services, CCS has worked out a four-phase plan. “Phase one is the emergency response phase and includes the immediate off-hire guidelines for the duration of the lay-up period of the vessels when only crew members are onboard,” says Groeger. “Phases two and three focus on analysis and consolidation. Our Our in-house panel of experts has gathered (and is constantly updating) the generic operational framework for on-hire operations under Covid-19 precautions. The fourth phase ensures the customisation for each product in close cooperation with all of our clients.”

Groeger is hopeful that cruise destinations feel well-represented by the international health and hygiene organisational framework so that the industry can work with aligned guidelines while resuming cruise services. But he adds a note of caution: “Non-comprehensive guidelines or those that are too slow to appear might lead to the implementation of inconsistent local regulations which could potentially create a huge additional administrative workload for each cruise operator.”

Newly introduced onboard health and hygiene protocols will have a significant impact on cruise line profitability. “The reduced passenger numbers have had a large impact on income and operational expenses are increasing due to additional labour-intensive sanitation measures and investments in the necessary equipment,” says Groeger.

While cruise operators have mainly focused on increasing capacities and market share over the past few years, the crisis has immediately shifted their priorities to their cost structures. “As third-party management is proven to be the most cost-efficient way of operating cruise vessels, we see a huge potential for CCS,” says Groeger. “As one of the very few cruise ship management companies offering comprehensive full management services (technical and marine, crewing and hotel operations), we are definitely ready to help any market player to reduce their operational expenses in an efficient and responsible manner, while not putting assets or product delivery level at risk.”

Closing on an optimistic note, he adds: “We are happy to share that our clients are reporting very promising booking figures for 2021 and we are certain that the cruise industry will recover.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
02 December 2020

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