Ponant shares protocol details and its plan to return to France
Frederic Gallois, chief operations officer Ponant, told Cruise Europe this week: “Our major assets to resume cruising very early in the best sanitary conditions were: the small size of our vessels (166 cabins maximum), the medical facilities and teams on board, our protocols and the professionalism of our crews.
“We have come out of this period operationally strengthened with solid experience and confidence in our ability to operate in this difficult context and to adapt.
“Our ‘Covid-safe’ health protocol is proving its worth and we have been able to maintain the confidence of our passengers. To date, nearly 3,500 have travelled or confirmed their reservations. The feedback from our passengers about their experience on board has been extremely positive.
The company organised cruises in France as an alternative in the face of the crisis. “These have been well received as many of our clients had expressed their desire to travel and their wish to return to the sea with us”.
These consisted of a local offer, in line with the company’s philosophy of offering cruises off the beaten track, to help discover confidential and unpublished places. Five itineraries were designed in a few weeks: Brittany, between wild coasts and lighthouses (from Saint-Malo), Authentic coasts of Normandy and Brittany (from Le Havre), Nature and terroir of New Aquitaine (from Bordeaux), The heritage of the Mediterranean coast (from Marseille), as well as Wild and secret Corsica (from Nice).
Gallois says: “Following the success of some of these cruises, most of them are planned to be renewed.”
Cruises have also been offered outside mainland France. From July to August 2020, new expedition cruises on new building Le Bellot took place to discover Iceland as well as the Arctic.
For fall-winter 2020-2021, cruises are currently under study. “We are following the news and working closely with the official authorities in the realisation of our future itineraries.”
Passengers of all nationalities are welcomed on board provided they are compliant with the health protocol detailed in the company’s manifesto but so far most of the passengers have been French with a few from other European countries.
Ponant has worked hand in hand with ports during the Covid-19 crisis. Gallois comments: “The pandemic requires a great agility from all of us and we have found, among ports, reliable partners.”
In order to resume operations, Ponant developed a ‘Covid-safe’ health protocol, based on health standards that exceed international regulations. To implement the protocol, Ponant worked closely with the international health authorities and the organisations that represent the cruise industry such as the Cruise Lines International Association, the World Health Organisation, the European Union, the Interministerial Crisis Committee, the Ministry of Health and tourism organisations.
Gallois adds: “We also rely on organisations specialising in the fight against Covid-19 such as the Institut Hospitaliser Universitaire Mediterranean Infection, one of Marseille's world-renowned centres in the field of infectious diseases, and the Centre de Consultation Medical Medical Maritime with whom direct contact is established and who are able to advise and intervene if necessary.
“In addition to our own Covid-safe health protocol, we can also set up specific measures required by local authorities.”
Gallois goes on to explain that the protocol is focused on the principle of double protection: 100% control of people (passengers and crew members) and goods before boarding, then once on board strict health protocols are applied.
“For many years, large investments have been made to equip our ships with the most advanced technologies in terms of safety, security, medical equipment, and the environment, including in the medical sector. Today our company takes these initiatives even further with the acquisition of new high-tech equipment for our onboard hospitals to strengthen our Covid-19 health protocols.
“Each ship is equipped with medical equipment for quick diagnostics when in an isolated environment, carried out by mobile laboratory terminals able to test on-site infectious or tropical diseases such as influenza, strep throat, dengue fever, malaria, HIV, digestive infections etc.
“Advanced diagnostic equipment is available on each vessel: ultrasound, radiology and blood biological analysis; allowing the management and stabilisation of cardiac pathologies (infarction, embolism, heart failure, rhythm disorders etc...), respiratory or digestive, orthopaedic traumatology, wound sutures, complicated dressings and monitoring of anticoagulant treatment or diabetes...
To carry out regular tests onboard, Ponant’s ships have been equipped with a complete and rapid solution for detecting Covid-19 in 20 minutes in confined areas and difficult-to-access environments. Each Ponant ship has the capacity to test for the virus independently.
Before boarding, each passenger is checked by Ponant’s medical team. This examination includes a temperature check by thermographic camera and symptom screening. Additionally, ongoing temperature checks are performed by thermographic cameras located in strategic areas where there is high traffic of passengers and crew. The medical team oversees positioning those cameras and controlling the measurements taken.
Luggage and personal belongings are systematically transferred through a disinfection zone, chlorine bath or solution or UV lamps. All food products, supplies and equipment are also disinfected by fumigation, chlorine bath or solution.
In the event of contamination on board on of the vessels, Ponant has established a strict procedure. Should there be a suspicious case on board, the person would be immediately taken care of by the medical team, would be tested using the onboard laboratory and would be strictly confined to a protected and equipped area while awaiting the result. The onboard team would be in constant contact with the health services if necessary.
If there were to be a confirmed case on board, care and evacuation to a local establishment would be organised in accordance with the instructions of the official authorities. At the same time, the onboard team would immediately search for and isolate any cases of contact by taking diagnostic samples if necessary and carrying out a risk analysis that could lead to decisions on the course of the cruise. Finally, complete disinfection of potentially infected areas would be carried out according to a specific protocol.
Gallois comments: “To date, the implementation of the protocol that we designed with the reference authorities validates the effectiveness of the measures established. During these first two months of operation, Ponant has continuously optimised the control of risks related to Covid-19: our system has been continuously operated, tested and improved. Our expertise and credibility are unanimously recognised on the market, which allows us to envisage serenely the future of our activity.”