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Carnival Offers its Vacant Ships as Hospitals During the Global Coronavirus Pandemic

By Jon Quast - Mar 19, 2020 at 4:25PM

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This could be the solution both the cruise operator and health officials have been looking for.

In a press release on March 19, cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation (CCL -6.93%)(CUK -6.93%) offered its ships to governments around the world for use as hospitals. The offer is for non-COVID-19 patients, as COVID-19 patients strain existing hospital resources. Available ships come from several Carnival-owned lines, including its Carnival Cruise and Princess Cruises lines.  

Current data from the World Health Organization shows that most countries have at least one reported case of COVID-19, meaning there are plenty which could be interested in Carnival's offer.

A cruise ship off the coast of Alaska.

Image source: Getty Images.

A practical solution

This offer from Carnival could be crucial for health officials trying to control the spread of the pandemic. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, some of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, like Italy, have low numbers of hospital beds. Italy only has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants, straining hospital capacity. The U.S. situation is even worse, with only 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants.

Cruise ships could be a viable solution. Already equipped with medical equipment, physicians, and sleeping arrangements, it makes practical sense to consider this option for non-COVID-19 patients. It isolates them from COVID-19, and gives critical hospital space to treat the most life-threatening cases of coronavirus.

But there's also strategic value for Carnival. Many of the company's cruise lines have paused operations for one month. Its Princess Cruise line is on a two month pause. In short, Carnival is in a difficult situation with no income. Therefore, it's asking any government who accepts its offer to simply pay for the cost of operating the ship during that time. In this way, it can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, and also find a way to generate some non consumer-discretionary revenue.

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