As most countries around the world seem to have already passed the peak of the recent pandemic, we all prepare to adapt to what has been named “the new normal”, where higher standards of safety and hygiene will be followed in order maintain the levels of protection required after this health crisis.
Together with the liveaboard association of Indonesia and other sectors of tourism such as hotels and restaurants, we have been discussing the measures that will have to be implemented, as part of a general plan of guidelines and standards of procedure to be adhered to by everybody involved in the tourism industry in Indonesia.
For that purpose, we are creating a set of procedures following the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), Divers Alert Network (DAN), PADI, and local health authorities. All our crew members will adhere to the latest guidance and hygiene protocols and will be well trained to handle any potential situations that may occur.
The set of guidelines are divided into three sectors: Crew, Boat and Guests, and are treated separately, although several points apply to more than one sector, such as:
- Minimize contact with other guests and crew not within your family/friend group, avoid handshaking, no touching, and respect physical distancing when possible.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, and mouth), as contaminated hands may transfer the virus to your body through these openings.
- When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue and immediately dispose of the tissue in an appropriate place.
- Use hand sanitiser in common areas. Hand sanitizer must be at least 60% alcohol based.
- Self-monitor your health condition. Immediately report any fever, cough, or difficulty breathing to the Cruise Director. Face masks can limit the transmission of the virus to others if you are sick or showing symptoms.
In regards to the crew, standard procedures include – but are not limited to – the following points:
- Minimize contact to fellow crew members only and keep 1 m distance if contact with the crew from other boats is necessary.
- To prevent crew infection between cruises, the crew must stay on board as much as possible and must have permission of the Captain and/or Cruise Director to go on shore. They must adhere to all health and hygiene guidance while on land.
- Crew should avoid touching guest’s diving or snorkelling equipment wherever possible, excluding dive tanks.
- Dive and snorkel equipment should be loaded on board speedboats when it’s already assembled.
- Rental equipment will be disinfected after use, at the end of every cruise.
- Make sure distancing rules are respected also when divers enter and exit the water. That will probably involve smaller groups and more trips with the tenders.
- Staff handling materials, equipment and dive tanks must practice hand washing and disinfection of high-touch areas including dive tanks and fill stations. All those carrying out refilling operations must follow correct hygiene procedures by washing hands.
- Personal hygiene and physical distancing procedures should also be observed in gas refill areas. Only authorized people will be allowed to be near compressors.
- Particular care is required when using alcohol-based disinfectants, including hydroalcoholic hand solutions. A small percentage of alcohol, a highly volatile and flammable substance even at relatively low temperatures, can cause fire or explosion. Avoid direct or indirect contact with equipment, cylinders, and filling hoses used for oxygen-enriched air. Wherever possible, it is preferable to use simple soap and water to clean hands.
Next are aspects concerning the boat. We will adhere to preventive hygiene measures to minimize the risk of contamination on board. These have been drafted as follows:
- Health, hygiene and safety notices specific to Covid-19 prevention will be displayed onboard. These notices will be created by the Association of Liveaboards and distributed to all members (samplers are displayed here).
- Common areas will be disinfected, in particular tables, door handles and hand railings.
- Proper handwashing facilities are provided in cabins and hand sanitizer will be available onboard, especially in common areas.
- Meal service will be provided in a safe and hygienic manner.
- Guest’s dive and snorkel equipment will be transported and stored in individual baskets/areas marked with guest’s number.
- Avoid washing dive or snorkel equipment in one big rinse tank.
- Ensure high hygiene standards are adhered to when cleaning the boat for the next group of guests.
And last, we will ensure that guests are given an extra, detailed briefing about the procedures regarding Covid-19. We will also ask our guests to comply with the following procedures:
- Guests must handle their own personal belongings, including scuba or snorkeling equipment.
- Whenever possible, guests are encouraged to bring their own diving or snorkeling equipment.
- Guests must wash or sanitize their hands after touching their dive or snorkel equipment.
- Guests should avoid taking any unnecessary material on board the speedboats that is not needed for safety reasons or in-water operations.
- Guests should preferably use defogging products (provided by us) to defog their mask, the use of saliva is discouraged.
- After a dive or snorkel guests must not use buckets to rinse masks, but rinse them in open water instead.
- Guests must look after their own masks, placing them in their own designated baskets.
- Luggage might be sprayed with a mild disinfectant upon arrival on board.
Note that this is just a draft and that we will continue to monitor the situation closely and keeping you updated with the latest implementations and protocols.
A couple of points that are worth mentioning are: Indonesia has not been affected by the Corona Virus as other countries have, particularly Europe and the US, and we haven’t experienced a major health crisis derived from it.
Also, the experience of a liveaboard cruise is a form of isolation in itself; once we make sure that both crew and guests are healthy (we believe guests will have to take a test before traveling, and we are considering testing our crew between every cruise as well), we only need to make sure to avoid contact with any other people during the length of the cruise. We are discussing a protocol for the times we go ashore on land tours (as in Komodo National Park or the treks to the bird of paradise), to avoid running into other groups of guests and crews.
The bottom line is we will do our utmost best to provide our guests with a very safe and healthy stay on board; we will keep updating this communication regularly in the hopes of providing a safe environment for you to come and spend an enjoyable journey in your next well-deserved holidays. Meanwhile, stay safe and stay strong.