MSC group hospital ship delivered to Genoa as part of virus relief effort

By Holly Birkett

A ferry that has been converted into a hospital ship was delivered on Thursday to accommodate patients who are recovering from Covid-19 in northern Italy.

The 214-metre ferry Splendid (built 1994) is expected to commence operations on Monday when its first 25 patients board.

The vessel is owned by Italian operator Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), which is part of the Meditarranean Shipping Co (MSC) group.

The two shipping companies worked with classification society RINA and Italy’s civil protection and medical administrations on the conversion project, which commenced just two weeks ago.

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive president of GNV and of the MSC group’s passenger division, said the group felt it needed to take action.

“As the MSC Group we felt the duty, in this emergency situation, to move quickly and make our skills and resources available to develop a solution that can respond to the needs of the country — and in particular of Genoa and Liguria — by starting a project and accompanying it in its first phase of experimentation,” Vago said in a statement on Thursday.

The ship will support two other medical facilities in Liguria that are also being used for recovering Covid-19 patients, who after being discharged from the hospital are required to spend a period of time in a monitored environment before returning home.

Conversion project

The Splendid was equipped in less than a week with an infirmary and first-aid equipment, plus 25 beds in single cabins, all with television, internet and independent external ventilation.

The ship can be quickly fitted with additional cabins with up 400 beds in total, if needed.

Giovanni Toti, president of Italy’s Liguria region, praised the partners for having the vessel ready in “record time”.

“We are the first region in Italy to have identified and equipped a structure suitable for hosting both people in ‘protected discharge’ from hospitals for a period of convalescence before returning to their home, and people who must carry out quarantine in total isolation,” he said in a statement.

Should the on board medical facilities need to be expanded, the Splendid’s car decks can be used to house modular intensive care units.

The ship’s on-board catering areas have also been configured to allow meals to be prepared and served in compliance with the safe distances specified by Italian government regulations.

Separate areas have been set up for healthcare personnel and crew.

Ugo Salerno, chief executive of RINA, said the class society was happy to have contributed its technical skills and hopes that similar projects will arise.

“We have developed an emergency concept, as is the situation we are facing, and we want to offer it to those who will need to replicate it,” he said.

RINA and a number of other suppliers provided services and equipment for the vessel free of charge.

This is not the first time that GNV has donated one of its vessels to assist in a humanitarian crisis.

In 2017, the ferry company and its partners assisted in relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean by setting up an outpatient unit with multiple rooms, air conditioning and an independent fire system in the car decks of one of its vessels.