Richard Neale of LTC Worldwide takes a look at the problems involved in delivering high quality linen on cruise ships and offers solutions
The problems of delivering high quality linen at sea are being made much more complex than they already are by the need to minimise operating costs and the increasingly critical demands of passengers for textiles in cabin restaurant and spa which are visually clean and stain-free, with no creases and no unpleasant odours.
Developments in laundry chemistry and machinery have helped considerably, but much more is needed, not least in manager and supervisor training and dissemination of the latest research results. There is even certification available for those who can now meet recognised disinfection standards, which is one sure way of reducing vulnerability of the ship’s crew and passengers to stomach bugs and viruses such as Covid-ig. We look at what is now ready for adoption worldwide and where there are still gaps.
Cruise liner laundries have to cope with consistently high occupancy rates and a large number of guests, who to use their cabins much more intensively than say users of a 5-star hotel in a capital city. This gives a high demand for duvet covers, pillowcases, sheets and towels which have to look good, smell sweet and be crease-free, with frequent changes of linen being the norm. Shipboard laundries used to rely on large washer extractors to cope with the volume and many still do. However, the leading operators are tackling the challenge of running large continuous batch tunnel washers (CBTWs) at sea and reaping the benefits of greatly reduced costs for labour, energy, chemicals and water. The best are cutting more than 50% off the unit cost of washing, although they are still faced with the problem of the inertia, in heavy seas, of a large mass of water and textiles rotating with the washing action while being thrown around by the mechanical action of the ocean swell. In rough seas there is still the risk that the CBTW must be shut down until waters calm, which could require a significant buffer stock of clean textiles.
This problem is almost certainly soluble: the mass of the CBTW is no greater than that of other rotating machinery (such as the engine) while the force of the linen and water sloshing around in the machine should be no greater than that of the liquid surges in the fuel tanks.
The nub of the perceived problem probably lies in the risks at two critical points in the CBTW wash cycle. The first is at the point when the main tubular body of the machine has to rotate through 360°, in order to transfer the contents of each stage in the washer to transfer cleanly forward into the next compartment. Any interruption at these transfer points (for example surges in heavy seas) risks causing a textile jam-up in the tunnel washer, which is time consuming and dangerous to fix.
There have been several deaths on tunnel washer lines on land and special procedures are now necessary for unblocking. These are tedious enough on a firm laundry floor and much more difficult in an ocean storm.
The solution to this first problem probably lies …….