World's second and third largest cruise companies - RCCL-Royal Caribbean and NCLH-Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings - announced a collaboration to develop enhanced cruise ship health and safety standards in response to the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Both companies asked Scott Gottlieb (MD physician and investor, the 23rd commissioner of the USA's FDA in 2017-2019) and the former Utah Governor Michael Okerlund Leavitt to serve as co-chairs of a new expert group "Healthy Sail Panel". The newly formed group is tasked to develop recommendations for cruise shipping companies to advance their public health response to the Coronavirus, improve safety, as well as achieve readiness for the resumption of cruise operations.
The expert panel, which has been working for nearly a month, is expected to offer its initial recommendations by the end of August. According to the cruise companies, its work would be "open source," and could be freely adopted by any industry or company that would benefit from the scientific and medical insights of the group.
According to Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, the unprecedented disease required them to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety. He added that bringing aboard those respected experts to guide them forward demonstrated their commitment to protecting guests, crews and the communities they visit.
Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said they competed for the vacationing consumer's business every day but never competed on health and safety standards. While the cruise industry had always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 provided an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.
Del Rio and Fain said they had initiated the panel to assure the plans they would submit to the USA's CDC agency and other regulators applied the best available public health, science, and engineering insights. The work of this panel will be shared with the entire industry and regulators.
The panel is co-chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt and Dr Gottlieb. The panel's members are globally recognized experts from disciplines like infectious diseases, public health, biosecurity, hospitality, maritime operations.