www.maritime-executive.com (edited)

Sanitation is an essential component of cruise ship operation, and in recent months it has become an even more critical component. Global port authorities around the world are carefully screening for COVID-19 coronavirus along with other illnesses such as the common flu, all of which could lead to delays or denial of permission for ships to enter ports. 

This new health challenge calls for new sanitation solutions. [Cruise] ships usually use heavy-duty chemical disinfectants, but there is a better and safer way. Electrolyzed water – also known as hypochlorous acid (HOCl) – is a highly effective and intrinsically safe sanitizing agent, and it can be generated in unlimited quantities. 

The single most important feature of hypochlorous acid is that it is unusually efficient in eliminating viruses. “One of the big reasons why people are switching over is efficacy. Working with Cruise Lines, we did research at a FDA-approved lab proving that electrolytically generated hypochlorous acid can kill norovirus in less than one minute at 50 ppm. Given that norovirus is listed by the CDC as one of the top five foodborne pathogens, this has huge implications not just for general sanitation but also for food sanitation and food contact surface sanitation,” says Dr. Scott Hartnett, chief medical officer at one HOCl supplying company. 

National and international reference laboratories have proven that HOCl works very well against viruses, including norovirus and human coronaviruses. One study is of particular interest: in 2016, researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health found that HOCl was more than 99.999 percent effective in eliminating coronavirus OC43, which is similar to COVID-19.

A proven solution for cruise ships

HOCl technology is already in use aboard ships in Cruise Lines fleet. “We use a hypochlorous acid system on board because of its proven effectiveness in killing bacteria, fungi and viruses,” says Robert Wilkinson, Senior Director of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “It reduces our dependence on the usual harsh chemicals and provides and additional layer of safety for our crewmembers and guests. Our shipboard teams truly appreciate the deployment of this new technology.” 

Wilkinson notes that HOCl is the rare single product that can be used to disinfect every compartment onboard, from galleys and dining areas to cabins. HOCl is FDA-cleared for washing fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables and sanitation of food prep surfaces without rinsing – making it a perfect choice for the galley. It is also listed by the USDA as an authorized material for use in organic food production. 

For large-scale disinfection, HOCl can be dispensed using a fogger without any chemical-related PPE for workers. HOCl is intrinsically safe, as it is non-irritant and the human body produces the same molecule for self-defense. In fact, it is so safe to inhale that it is being evaluated as a treatment for throat and lung infections. By contrast, the preparatory steps required for other fogging agents of similar power – products based on peracetic acid, ozone, chlorine dioxide or peroxides – require considerable time and expense. 

In hotel areas of the ship, HOCl has an extra edge over bleach and peroxide-based chemicals because it will not cause discoloration of most carpets, furniture and textiles. This is a critical economic and operational consideration when disinfecting hundreds of cabins. 

Unlimited quantities

With modern technology, HOCl can be generated in unlimited quantities using only electricity, table salt and water.  With unlimited on-board HOCl generation, there is no need to resupply the ship with toxic cleaning products. This reduces the ship’s supply chain costs and the need to carry toxic chemicals on board and is an effective and practical solution to a mission-critical challenge. 

With better efficacy and safety, unlimited capacity and ship-wide usability, hypochlorous acid is a superior solution for disinfection.