COVID-19: LETTER FROM LONDON
Naval architect Riccardo Gnocchi draws on the spirit of his North Italian family as he adjusts to locked down London
Working and living in central London at the time of COVID-19 is markedly different to what Londoners are used to. Offices are shut, regardless of their size and number of people, and entire buildings are now in a state of apparent hibernation.
Local shops and restaurants are also on lockdown with the exception of some small corner shops which have to get by some way or another. Even if shops are open, there’s no customers. You don’t see the familiar groups outside pubs enjoying a drink in the spring weather, or people in suits leaving their offices for a quick bite or a meal deal.
The empty city streets replicate a ghost town. There are very few cabs and the buses are empty. It is almost impossible to distinguish between weekdays anymore as the streets are only populated by a few brave runners and joggers. The well-known ‘rush hour’ seems to be a thing of the past.
Andrà Tutto Bene
My family is based between Milan and Lake Como in the most severely affected area of northern Italy. They have been in lockdown now for over 20 days and things have just recently started to get better. Luckily, none of my family members were affected by the virus, but the focus is primarily on my grandparents who are scared for their situation and require constant assistance.
Nevertheless, we live in an era where social contact is not affected by distance anymore, so I speak to my family regularly and find reassurance in their positivity.
People in Italy are now sticking together and confident that we will find a way out of this.
Unfortunately, the disease seems to have spread over the rest of Italy, so the only reliable solution is self-confinement at home. Which as you can imagine, it quite hard during springtime in sunny Italy! But, as we Italians say, “andrà tutto bene.” Everything will be fine.
London Is Open
I’ve made a few changes to adjust to the current COVID-19 situation both here in UK and Italy. Knowing in advance what might happen here helped me address some of the issues I could have faced when we decided to close the London office. I am used to work remotely and all I need is my laptop, so working from home isn’t an issue and doesn’t affect my efficiency.
As one of Solis’s Marine Naval Architects I could be required to join a casualty or a salvage operation anywhere in the world at any moment to provide technical support or advice.
The enforcement of restrictions from COVID-19 is obviously preventing travel abroad currently, but personally I think this issue will be addressed very soon as people are understanding that there is a need to keep services running to guarantee technical support to the world of shipping.
Most of my work is engineering and naval architecture work, and my involvement is both for the London office and for Solis Marine Engineering, which is based in Falmouth. Our clients range from P&I Clubs to law firms and engineering firms. My work on the P&I side has not been affected as the clubs are trying to prevent work delays and keep business running as usual. The smaller engineering firms workload might be affected by the virus depending on the size of the firm and the type of work carried out.
My personal involvement in London is now in the modelling of a ship incident following a fire on board which damaged the vessel cargo and required a salvage operation to be undertaken. In addition, I am conducting a sensitivity analysis for a potential wave energy device which should harvest energy from the motion of waves.
Business As Usual
The Solis team comprises master mariners, naval architects and engineering specialists all working together to provide clients with the technical and expert assistance they require.
Geographical distancing has never been an issue for the team which means the COVID-19 restrictions, and remote working, doesn’t compromise the quality of our work or the level of reliability of our experts.
This flexible approach will be a great strength in the months to come when we all might be required to change old routines, be more careful and pay more attention to personal health and safety.
The capacity of the Solis team to adapt to unusual circumstances and extraordinary events is a real point of difference and I know COVID-19 will not limit us doing what we do best.