An outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect mariners and maritime commerce. Vessel arriving to or traveling between any U.S. port or place must follow reporting and infection control measures to maintain the safety of personnel onboard vessels as well as within the port.
Vessel Reporting Requirements:
Illness of a person onboard any vessel that may adversely affect the safety of a vessel or port facility is a hazardous condition per 33 CFR 160.216 and must be reported immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP). Cases of persons who exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must be reported to the COTP. This requirement is separate and additional to any other required Coast Guard or Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting, and applies to vessels departing from or arriving to any port or place in the U.S., includes internal waters, the territorial seas, and deep water ports.
In addition to Coast Guard reporting requirements, 42 CFR 71.21 requires vessels destined for a U.S. port to report to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) any sick or deceased crew/passengers 15 days prior to arrival at the U.S. port. Guidance to vessels to report deaths and illnesses to the CDC can be found at: Cargo vessels and Cruise ships. U.S. flagged commercial vessels are also advised to report ill crewmembers in accordance with the requirements of each foreign port called upon. Further, 42 CFR 70.4 states the master of any vessel or person in charge of any conveyance engaged in interstate traffic, on which a case or suspected case of a communicable disease develops shall, as soon as practicable, notify the local health authority at the next port of call, station, or stop, and shall take such measures to prevent the spread of the disease as the local health authority directs.
See MSIB 06-20, “Vessel Reporting Requirements for Illness or Death”, for further information.
Vessel Control Actions:
Presidential Proclamations have placed entry restrictions from persons arriving from or through the following countries: Iran, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), the European states within the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil.
Non-passenger Commercial Vessels:
- The Coast Guard considers it a hazardous condition under 33 CFR 160.216 if a vessel has been to one of the countries noted above or has embarked a crewmember who has been in one of the countries noted above within the past 14 days. This requires immediate notification to the nearest Coast Guard Captain of the Port.
- Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to the countries noted above or embarked crewmembers from the countries noted above within the last 14 days, with no sick crewmembers, will be permitted to enter the U.S. and conduct normal operations, provided that crewmembers remain aboard the vessel except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations. U.S. citizens or any other persons listed in Section 2 of Presidential Proclamation “Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Person Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus,” for example crewmembers with a transit and/or crewmember visa, may be permitted to disembark the vessel to conduct vessel operations pier side or for the immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. to another country. When entering the U.S. all persons must be cleared by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and, if applicable, CDC. Crewmembers without the appropriate visas will generally be required to remain onboard unless otherwise cleared for entry by CBP and, if applicable, CDC.
- Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to the countries noted above or embarked crewmembers from the countries noted above within the last 14 days, and do have sick crewmembers should expect delays and need to work with local health and port officials prior to entry.
- On April 15, 2020, the CDC updated their existing No Sail Order. This Order will remain in effect until the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency, the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or 100 days from the date publication in the Federal Register. This renewed order requires all cruise ship operators to provide “an appropriate, actionable and robust plan to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 on board cruise ships” prior to operating in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. In addition to the plan, there are further restrictions on crew member and vessel movements. The CDC maintains a website specific to cruise ships with further information including a copy of the No Sail Order.
Onboard Precautions for COVID-19:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected Coronavirus Disease 2019. This guidance includes measures to prevent infection in crew members, recommended PPE, cleaning and disinfection, how to manage sick passengers or crew.
Vessel owners and operators are encouraged to develop procedures to prevent, respond, and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on board vessels. These plans should include the applicable aspects of the CDC guidance as well as any additional requirements of local health agencies.
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.