(2:15 p.m. EDT) -- MSC Cruises has launched a new health and safety task force mandated to develop new operating protocols to support the line's eventual return to service.
Dubbed the "Blue Ribbon COVID Expert Group", this new task force combines experts in the fields of medical services, public health and sanitation, hotel services, HVAC systems, and other shipboard engineering positions.
In addition, MSC has also secured the services of Aspen Medical, a global provider of healthcare solutions headquartered in Australia, to assist in the development of these new health and safety protocols.
The group of highly qualified and internationally respected experts will inform and review the line's COVID-19 initiatives "to help ensure that the actions taken are appropriate, effective, and informed by the best available science and health practices," said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises.
Among the duties the group will do: policy initiatives, technical innovations and operational measures related to COVID-19. Rather than develop rules and disband, the group will remain in place after the line's return to operations "to ensure we benefit from their know-how and input even as the situation continues to evolve and more data become available," Vago said.
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MSC notes its taskforce has worked to develop protocols for every aspect of the cruise experience, from the time of booking through to embarkation, the voyage itself, and the passenger's safe return home. The line's new health and safety operating protocols will be announced soon.
MSC indicated that these have been designed to exceed new guidelines issued by global regulatory bodies, including the World Health Organization and the new guidelines developed by the European Union's Healthy Gateways recommendations to the cruise industry.
The current focus is on working with authorities responsible for health, transport and the maritime sector in countries overlooking the Mediterranean, said Bud Darr, MSC Group's executive vice pesident for maritime policy and government affairs.
"This is in fact the region where, thanks to the improvement in the health situation ashore and return to travel by citizens, we currently expect a potential resumption of cruise operation following the now nearly completed and successful reopening of other travel and leisure activities across the region."
The line has also engaged the services of a maritime classification society to provide third-party verification that MSC's protocols and procedures meet established guidelines by the EU. Maritime classification societies have long certified vessels for seagoing and regulatory compliance, and a few societies -- including DNV GL and Bureau Veritas -- have already developed their own health, safety and hygiene certification processes.
Two additional cruise operators, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Royal Caribbean Group announced their own joint taskforce on the same day, mandated to work on health and safety protocols that will be available to all cruise lines and other industries.