Cruise Ship Green Zones
The top three cruise corporations lost 80–90% of their value at the bottom of the stock market. Royal Caribbean has extended its covid cancellation policy out to 2022. Norwegian was rescued from possible bankruptcy last Wednesday. Carnival is failing to make lease deals, even though “interested parties will be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship’s operations while in port.” Limited service is to resume in August, but several hundred ships capable of accommodating several hundred thousand people will likely sit empty for the rest of the year.
Ships are valuable in an emergency.
After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. government chartered three of Carnival Cruise Line’s ships for six months to help provide shelter for as many as 7,000 people, mostly displaced city workers. In March, Carnival Corp. offered ships, with a total of 254,000 beds, to treat non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up land-based hospitals to focus on victims of the virus. American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines have asked the Federal Government to explore ways in which their six ships could house quarantined military personnel in Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis, New Orleans, Norfolk and Miami.
Proposals have been limited to military and hospital service; so far no takers. Everyone (not everyone) is so unnerved by Diamond Princess that there is little consideration that the drawbacks of a cruise ship — isolation, self-containment — are also its benefits.
Green zones are safe zones.
A use for these empty ships could be educational and corporate green zones. These would be temporary (3-month, 6-month or year-long) port-based live/work quarters. To keep the green zone green, ship passengers would only be admitted to the green zone after a strict quarantine and testing.
This would be an immediate service to companies. If the model is made workable over the course of the next year, a ship could be purchased at discount — there are dozens under construction and ships priced at $50M in 2019, after dropping to a tenth of that, are being sold for scrap — for a permanent Google or Goldman Sachs Corporate Cruise headquarters, or Lambda School at Sea. The world’s largest fifty cruise ships accommodate between 3,000 and 6,780 people. Many corporate campuses already feel like a cruise ship — moving to actual ships would not be a big change in work environment. In times of health, they would be an employee perk, and likely cheaper than NY/SF rents. When the next pandemic comes, they will provide functional backup.
Companies could partner with innovators in technologies to track and monitor health and goods-disinfection, functioning as a lab-like environment to prototype methods that could be replicated on land at scale.
Hospitals aren’t the only way to serve the public.
The cruise ships could be used to train the workforce for the new economy. Friday’s job report has been called the worst in American history and is expected to worsen in May and June. Almost 40% of Americans in households making less than $40,000 a year lost a job in March. Many of these jobs will never recover. All predictions forecast a shift to a digital economy — this is now happening faster than we thought. The world will need less service industry jobs but more programmers, security specialists, network engineers, data scientists, game developers, etc.
Education is shifting away from brick-and-mortar debt-enslavement toward distance, skills-based, “job-guaranteed” learning. A lot can be learned online — a month of self-quarantine is not a foreign experience to beginning programmers — but ultimately people like to be with other people. Having a green zone to converge on after developing some preliminary skills in quarantine will allow more creativity, collaboration, and team-building.
The federal legislative and executive offices have passed almost $3 trillion in economic relief measures. A portion of this stimulus spending could be invested in online and green-zone skills training programs. We will still have a tough year ahead, but at least we’d finish 2020 with a several hundred thousand strong cohort of people skilled for the virtual jobs that the new economy will require. This would be a big improvement over flat checks to hold people over (until… what?) and such an investment in the national skill set would encourage world investors to bet on the US.
Expanding on this skills-to-jobs pipeline, green zone cruise schools using an income-based repayment model could be a forerunner to floating live/work corporations to rescue, train, and process visa applications for refugees.
There will be another crisis.
We have to plan on it being worse. Everyone talks about what we will have learned from this experience. But no clear protocol has emerged from the world’s hodgepodge response — certainly not one that can be trusted to be accepted and properly enacted at the global and (every) local level. Corporate and educational green zones in the safe isolation of cruise ships will be one way to keep people safe and the economy moving forward when life on land comes to another halt.
Here’s an idea about how it could work.
Lessee will rent a hotel in port city and two ships at port at a reduced fee that covers basic operating expenses. The cruise corp and the lessee will include in contract provisions to ensure CDC requirements are met.
Red Zone: Hotel / Home (Quarantine)
Students living in port city may self-quarantine at home. All other traveling to port city will quarantine in the hotel.
Students will complete assignments, attend virtual classes, and interact virtually from their hotel rooms.
Yellow Zone: Ship 1 (Quarantine)
Those who pass assignments and preliminary quarantine / testing will be welcomed aboard the yellow zone ship. This is total quarantine: rooms will be negatively pressurized; students will be isolated to their rooms; all public spaces will be closed.
Green Zone: Ship 2 (Open)
The green zone ship will be docked at the same port walking distance to the yellow zone ship. Those who have passed red and yellow quarantines as well as education requirements will be welcomed aboard the green zone ship.
Students will interact freely and all public spaces will be open. No one will be permitted to enter the ship except those coming from Yellow Zone after quarantine. Leaving the ship will restart the quarantine and testing process.
Green Zone: Resort (Open)
Once the CDC “no sail” order is rescinded, rather than staying at port, some ships with partnerships or holdings in isolated areas (such as an island owned by the cruise corp) may choose to relocate students to a land-based green-zone and return to accommodate new students from the yellow zone ship.
It’s one piece of the puzzle.
We need many solutions for supply chains, food production, water filtration, health-tracking, sanitation, and maintenance of other infrastructure. We know that we cannot rely on haphazardly-executed top-down yet-tbd plans. We need ideas and fast action for cooperative preparation so that we can have protocols in place to confidently meet the next challenge. As the world shifts quickly, we need to whatever we can do to keep options open for people to enter the brightest of possible futures.