Ventilation and COVID-19 transmission risks on board of Dutch governmental ships

More Info


The Dutch government (specifically the ‘Rijksrederij’, the governmental shipping company) owns a fleet of just under 100 ships that are equipped to service the internal waterways and parts of the North Sea. Think in this context of e.g. Coast Guard ships, ships that help to fight oil accidents or ships that maintain buoys. Just after the COVID-19 pandemic had started the ‘Rijksrederij’ decided that it was necessary to investigate to what extent the fleet might pose a risk for cross contamination of this new disease on board. This was approached with a specific focus on ventilation and the airborne route. The objective was to find out whether the most important spaces on board of the ships were adequately ventilated and to evaluate how ships can be made or kept ‘COVID-resistant’ as far as the airborne route is concerned. A sample of 16 ships of different types, most of them mechanically ventilated, were surveyed. This included a general inspection, an inspection of relevant HVAC system characteristics and measurements of e.g. air supply flows. Also, ships were equipped with monitors that measured CO2 concentration (e.g. in galleys and wheelhouses) that were left on board for at least one week. As reference for the supply flow measurement outcomes we used ISO 7547 guideline values and the Germanischer Lloyd ventilation requirements. On board of 6 of the 16 ships that were investigated we found serious problems with the fresh air supply and/or measured CO2 concentrations. On the positive side, the majority of the ships had ventilation capacities in line with the two reference standards, and almost all did not use central recirculation. We also found that many of the ships had adequate options, at room level, for individual control of both fresh air supply and temperature. The results of the study will be used to further improve ‘COVID safety’ on board of the whole fleet and to ameliorate future, new ships and their HVAC systems.