MSC Group joins international Bahamas hurricane relief effort

Image result for MSC seaside

The vast container shipping conglomerate behind MSC Cruises is to provide temporary shelters to people left homeless due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian.

MSC Group’s initial efforts will focus on semi-permanent prefabricated modular housing in the areas most affected by the hurricane as well as making ships available for cargo from the US to the Freeport and Marsh Harbour container terminals.

The operation will involve its cargo shipping, cruising and its charitable foundation.

The latest aid initiative came as the death toll from Hurricane Dorian rose to 23 with fears that numbers could rise at least into the hundreds given the number of people missing across the island nation.

An estimated 76,000 people have been left in need of food and shelter with the International Red Cross estimating that 45% of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos – some 13,000 properties – were severely damaged or destroyed.

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 185mph, matching the highest ever recorded at landfall, and stayed over affected areas for two days.

A fleet of ships from various cruise lines has been deployed on aid missions to the islands.

Royal Caribbean ships are to be re-deployed over the next few weeks to tender outside of Freeport, the Bahamas carrying goods and meals. This operation began with Empress of the Seas delivering 10,000 meals and 10,000 bottles of water.

The company is also sending container ships with emergency supplies including 47,000 bottles of water, 362 generators, 250 tarpaulins, 25,000 square feet of plywood, 55,400 nappies and 7,500 pounds of pet food.

Carnival Cruise Line is to divert the ships Carnival Pride and Carnival Liberty next week to deliver food, water and relief supplies in addition to an agreement to run shipments of aid by container ship.

Image result for carnival pride

The latest aid initiative came as the death toll from Hurricane Dorian rose to 23 with fears that numbers could rise at least into the hundreds given the number of people missing across the island nation.

An estimated 76,000 people have been left in need of food and shelter with the International Red Cross estimating that 45% of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos – some 13,000 properties – were severely damaged or destroyed.

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 185mph, matching the highest ever recorded at landfall, and stayed over affected areas for two days.

A fleet of ships from various cruise lines has been deployed on aid missions to the islands.

Royal Caribbean ships are to be re-deployed over the next few weeks to tender outside of Freeport, the Bahamas carrying goods and meals. This operation began with Empress of the Seas delivering 10,000 meals and 10,000 bottles of water.

The company is also sending container ships with emergency supplies including 47,000 bottles of water, 362 generators, 250 tarpaulins, 25,000 square feet of plywood, 55,400 nappies and 7,500 pounds of pet food.

Carnival Cruise Line is to divert the ships Carnival Pride and Carnival Liberty next week to deliver food, water and relief supplies in addition to an agreement to run shipments of aid by container ship.

Sandals Resorts International has responded with help through its SRI Foundation.

Deputy chairman Adam Stewart said: “All three of the Sandals properties in the Bahamas have been unaffected which gives us the opportunity to focus on recovery and assisting however we can.

“We are proud to be working with the government of Jamaica and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre to help our neighbouring island of the Bahamas who parts of which were badly affects by hurricane Dorian.

“The foundation, through the efforts of those who have supported us thus far, donated $10,000 worth of water, as a first gesture to those in Abaco, through our partner the Bahamian non-profit group HeadKnowles. A partner of Sandals has also donated $100,000 worth of cleaning material which we will also be collecting in the next 48 hours.”

MSC Group through its MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has been present in the region for 20 years as the leading cargo import and export operator in the Bahamas. Its local headquarters are based in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Gianluigi Aponte, executive chairman and founder of MSC Group, said: “It is heartbreaking to see the impact and devastation that Hurricane Dorian has brought over the Bahamas and its population. The thoughts and prayers of my entire family are with the people of the Bahamas and their families and loved ones.

Image result for MSC cargo ship

“As a family company and one that has lived off the sea for over 300 years, we are fully committed to supporting both immediate and longer-term relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas.

“Our businesses have long been closely tied to the Bahamas and its people, with a rich history spanning over many decades. We now look forward to supporting their efforts to rebuild and recover in every way we can and through all our businesses.”

Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said: “The devastation of the Bahamsa is truly tragic and heartbreaking and we are keeping them in our thoughts as we continue to offer our support and assistance.”

The US states of North and South Carolina are at risk of dangerous storm surges today before the hurricane moves towards Nova Scotia at the weekend.

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Carnival Cruise Line’s Christine Duffy Interview

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Carnival Vista Above.

The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) inspects cruise ships that visit U.S. ports to check their sanitation and hygiene conditions and grades them on a scale of 1 to 100. Most ships get a passing grade of 86 or higher, which was why it was so surprising that four ships from Carnival Cruise Line received unsatisfactory grades in a two-month period from Nov. 11 to Jan. 4. Two of the four, the Carnival Breeze and the Vista, are Carnival’s two newest ships. The others were the Carnival Triumph and the Liberty. The three ships that were graded under 86 in 2017 represent nearly 20% of all the ships that failed in 2017, out of a total of 256 inspections. Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst spoke with cruise line president Christine Duffy about the run of failures.

Q: How do you account for it? I can’t think of a year in which four ships from a single line were graded unsatisfactory, much less four in two months.

Christine Duffy
Christine Duffy

A: Neither can we. Obviously, it was very concerning to all of us. We have a dedicated shoreside team that manages the work with USPHS and then teams onboard the ships. We’ve always been very proud of the scores that we’ve gotten.

Q: What do you say to passengers?

A: I think the most important thing to say is that the findings have really not compromised public health.

Q: Are there specific issues that produced those low scores?

A: While there’s a lot of retraining, and refocus and re-emphasise that we are taking care of, based on some of the scores, a lot of it has been administrative inconsistencies, and also issues where we have been asked to replace certain equipment. So there’s different standards and different equipment that we are replacing. But it takes some time from that point to the time when we’ll be able to get it onboard the ships. That is all in process. Some of it may be coffee pots, … salad bowls.

Q: Were all the Carnival ships inspected during November and December graded unsatisfactory?

A: Carnival Glory and Carnival Pride were also inspected during this time and got scores of 99 and 95, [respectively].

Q: How alarmed should people be about the “unsatisfactory” label?

A: I think some of this is reminding people that a passing score is 86, which is a pretty high bar. Failure doesn’t actually indicate any unsanitary or public health concern. Obviously, if there were, we wouldn’t be able to sail. There’s been no disruption to any of our guests.

As you know, we are the only industry in hospitality that is in a program where it’s voluntary. We pay for all the services that USPHS provides. I think when the program began, it was with the idea that setting the pass/fail at 86 would make sure that all the cruise lines and cruise ships would get information before there was ever a problem, to be able to address it.

Q: One problem that seemed to occur on several ships was the crew working while they were ill. What can you do to discourage sick crew members from working?

A: Some of that was actually people who were not filling out the forms before they were coming back to work. That became a deduction in points. We have reiterated to all of our crew members, to the medical team onboard, to our department managers, that if someone is sick we don’t want them working. The last thing we want is to have any issues that would create a public health concern or an outbreak. Fortunately, we have not had those, so clearly, again, I think some of this is we need to do a tighter job on the documentation when someone was writing in and signing out, and so those were part of the administrative inconsistencies that have caused these failures.

Galveston Continues Expansion of Cruise Products

The Liberty of the Seas sails year-round from Galveston

For the Port of Galveston, the major news for 2018 is the continued expansion of cruise products and related services available, according to Interim Port Director Peter Simons.

Carnival Cruise Line is moving the Carnival Vista to Galveston later in the year replacing the Breeze. The Vista will sail alongside the Liberty and the Freedom.

“To accommodate the Vista we are in the process of doing some infrastructure upgrades in Cruise Terminal No. 1,” said Simons.

Last fall, the port also welcomed the Vision of the Seas, and Simons explained that while she was originally intended to be a seasonal product, she is replacing the Enchantment of the Seas on a year-round basis.

“We will have three Carnival and two Royal Caribbean ships year-round, and Disney seasonally from October to January,” he added.

The current scheduling has two ships in port on Saturdays, two on Sundays, one each on Mondays and Thursdays, and Disney on Fridays.

Terminal Expansion

“We have completed the expansion of Cruise Terminal No. 2, and when we did the design for that, we planned for larger ships and more passengers. Both of our terminals are able to handle bigger ships and more capacity,” he said.

“What we are doing though on the channel side is adding mooring structures to accommodate the longer Carnival Vista, and we are also finishing a mooring improvement project at Terminal No. 2 that will enable us to handle even larger ships in the future. We are upgrading the main mooring to be 200-ton bollards – the longer dock will also allow us easier access to the loading doors.

“We are also in the conceptual stage, looking at the designs and options for a third cruise terminal. There is definitely demand to sail from Galveston on weekends and we want to be able to accommodate what we see as future growth in that market.”

Simons said the port is talking to cruise lines about how to fund the new terminal. He said the port’s options were either bank financing or teaming up with a cruise line.

Meanwhile, he is also looking at how to provide the next generation of ships with LNG.

Team Effort

At press time, Galveston projected just short of 1.9 million passengers embarking and disembarking on some 258 sailings for 2017, up from 1.7 million passengers for 2016. For this year, the forecast is for 308 sailings and more than 2 million passengers, according to Simons.

“We see a lot of people coming down a couple of days early for special events, so there is a fair amount of extra local spending in connection with the cruise traffic. The vast majority of the passengers are drive-ups regionally and usually from the lower Midwest, but even as far north as Illinois and South Dakota. The fly-ins are typically from the West Coast.

“There is also a wide variety of things to do both on Galveston Island and in the vicinity that we are working with the cruise lines on for pre- and post-stays,” he added.

Simons, who joined the port in 2012 and was director of operations before being named interim port director, credited the port staff, the longshoremen and the stevedores for Galveston’s growing cruise traffic. He said it was a team effort with very attentive and hard-working people, making the cruise lines feel comfortable here and helping to grow their business.