Rust hits every ship hard, but it has an additional impact on the cruise industry. Passengers do not want to take a vacation on an ugly ship. They want to be wowed by great entertainment, good food, and beautiful surroundings. They want a ship that is clean, bright, and easy on the eyes. Rust on a ship creates an immediate impression of an improperly maintained vessel. If the outside is ugly, what does that say about the inside?

With COVID-19, the cruise ship industry is dealing with an unprecedented challenge. The CDC’s ‘No Sail Order’ has idled fleets for months. Companies have invested millions in maintaining a beautiful exterior, only to see the paint fade and the rust creep back on their vessels. Executing a ship maintenance plan is challenging under normal conditions, but now it is completely off schedule. When the work starts back up, your ships need to be ready to go.

To stop the corrosion on your ship, a coating (or paint) system is needed. Coatings act as a barrier, preventing the iron (Fe) in the steel from bonding with the oxygen (O) in the air. When Fe and O unite – rust results. To build the barrier, the steel has to be cleaned and the proper surface preparation performed. Once repairs are made and the steel is prepared, a barrier coat can be applied. To pull this off in an affordable and effective way, avoiding multiple returns to the shipyard for maintenance, requires technical expertise and teamwork. Most of all it requires a willingness to face these problems head-on.

COVID-19 has made shipboard corrosion problems even more difficult – but not impossible. As the cruise ship industry looks forward to getting back to work, there are several important questions that must be addressed.

  • How extensive is the corrosion problem throughout my fleet?
  • What rust problems need to be addressed first?
  • Maintenance dollars are tight – how can more spending be justified?
  • Once the fleet is back on track, how do you stay ahead of the game?

The good news on corrosion is the quicker you address the problem, the easier it is to solve. But with limited resources and a host of other urgent issues, where do you start?

First, build your team.

  • Labor costs a lot – use existing in-house resources and identify a strong leader with clear goals.
  • Limit outside experts – use as-needed for short-term efforts like surveys, training staff, and 3rd party quality assurance.

Second, gather intel.

  • Start asking questions (see above). Push for real answers.
  • Be prepared for some grim news but get to the truth.

Third, establish priorities.

  • Use your answers to chart your path.
  • Focus on your end goals – a seaworthy, safe, and beautiful fleet.

Fourth, build a plan and execute it.

  • Even if it is not perfect, execute the plan.
  • Delaying action is the wrong action with corrosion.

END RESULT: Cruise ship fleets that follow this path will come out of COVID-19 with happier passengers and far ahead of their competition.