Bridge Programs

10/23/2014: Coast Guard Commandant’s remarks from the American Pilots Association conference – Part 1

Tuesday, the American Pilots Association hosted a conference in Houston, Texas. Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Paul Zukunft was a keynote speaker.

Zukunft addressed over 200 licensed marine pilots. His comments shared in this post are focused on the recent Ebola outbreak. Read Part 2 for the additional summarized comments on domestic energy production, the Panama Canal expansion, cyber in the maritime domain and maritime innovation.

Maritime Commons is providing an excerpt of the key takeaways from Commandant’s remarks on Ebola for those of you who could not attend the conference…

Delivered by Adm. Paul Zukunft


There have been no known Ebola cases in the maritime environment. Nonetheless, the potential for a case is there. It is critically important that the Coast Guard, international community, maritime industry and port stakeholders work cooperatively to manage the risk of infectious diseases like Ebola becoming a challenge in the maritime domain.

We must do two things.

• Mitigate the potential for the maritime transportation system to become a vector for transmitting Ebola
• Ensure the safety of people who live, work, and operate in the maritime environment.

Our first priority is to ensure that we keep Ebola out of the maritime domain altogether. To do this, we gather and analyze advance notice of arrival and other information to screen ships and crews bound for the United States.

All vessels are required to report any illness affecting crew or passengers within the previous 15 days. We recently published a Marine Safety Information Bulletin with updated guidance specific to Ebola, reiterating these reporting requirements and containing information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for identifying particular symptoms.

We pay particular attention to ships that have called at – or have crewmembers – that may have visited one of the source countries in West Africa or have had contact with someone in those countries where there is a heightened risk of Ebola.

We also work with our international, Federal, state and local partners. We are working especially close with CDC and Customs and Border Protection who also have responsibilities in the maritime environment concerning the control of infectious diseases.

We work with shipping agents, shipping companies, port partners and other maritime stakeholders to share information, typically through our Area Maritime Security Committees or Harbor Safety Committees to ensure unity of effort, or like with the cruise ship last week, at unified commands through our Sectors.

If we were to identify a potential risk, our Captains of the Port, in consultation with local stakeholders, will identify the appropriate control measures for the ship to assist CDC and other public health authorities to further assess the public health risk and to identify appropriate courses of action.

Even though we assess the risk to be very low, we also ask additional follow-up questions of the master concerning potential illness or symptoms onboard to validate our advanced notice of arrival information.

Fortunately, if a response does become necessary, each port has a Maritime Security plan that anticipates such a scenario.

I have directed all Coast Guard units to update training and ensure our people are ready should the need arise for this capability in the Search and Rescue environment or as part of an incident response.

Obviously, pilots should make a report to CDC, CBP and the Coast Guard immediately if they believe they have encountered – or are told of – a crew member with Ebola-like symptoms.

Close coordination between government and industry will be the key to conducting safe operations and limiting the effects of Ebola at sea.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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