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Controlling Legionella on Ships, Ferries & staycation boats

When we hear about outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, we tend to associate them with scenarios that occur on land – in hotels, hospitals, leisure centres etc. However, there are similar opportunities for Legionella bacteria to grow and spread at sea too. Ships, ferries, cruise liners and other maritime vessels of all shapes and sizes can be affected, and as such must take suitable precautions to make sure their water systems are safe for those who use them or are exposed to them.


What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused when a person inhales water droplets contaminated with Legionella bacteria. It’s uncommon but can be very serious. People catch the disease from breathing in legionella contaminated water droplets. Adults over 45, smokers and people with compromised immune systems tend to be more susceptible to infection.

Legionella on ferries

The Stark reminder recently of the dangers of Legionella on Ferries:


Ferries are used for regular journeys that are often completed in only a few hours. While few people spend a long time on board, it only takes a brief exposure to legionella-carrying mist or water vapor for someone to contract Legionnaires’ disease

One third of cruise ships tested positive for legionella

It is easy to assume the bigger risks lie with the larger ships and vessels, yet this may not always be true. Water systems can be designed and built to be as safe as possible but still need effective management and control practices to keep them safe.

However, that may not be true of smaller pleasure vessels. Consider how many barges, narrowboats, yachts, and motorboats are rented out for people to use this year as more of the UK head for a staycation this year.

They must surely number in their thousands, and yet there is a chance that some commercial boat owners and operators may not be aware they are responsible for the control of legionella and the maintenance of the water systems on board to ensure the safety of people using the vessel.

Our teams of water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including Legionella bacteria on land and at sea, helping  owners and managers to protect their people, passengers and others to meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area. We deliver professional water safety risk assessments for legionella, water testing and independent compliance auditing.

If you have questions about any of the issues raised above or you would like to speak with one of our marine specialists please call us today on 0800 080 3045 or contact us here.


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