COVID-19: Updates for Vessels and P&I Clubs
1. What happens to crew members flying into the United States to meet ships and sign aboard as replacement crew during a crew change (and to the crew members who sign off the ship to fly home)?
We encourage you to look at the Presidential Proclamation regarding suspension of entry, in particular Sec. 2 (Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry). Typically, most vessel crew members are traveling on a C-1 or D-1 visa. It is noted that Section 1, Suspension and Limitation on Entry does not apply to those covered by Sec. 2(vii) - “any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crew member or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew”.
That said, the 14-day quarantine period for the countries described in the proclamations will be enforced. In effect, there will be no joining the vessel via airlines for these individuals. Subject to the COVID-19 Flight Funneling even U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents that come from affected areas will need to be cleared and quarantined at the assigned airports. Effectively, that means no joining a vessel as replacement crew for crew members who have visited any of these listed countries in the preceding 14 days:
- People's Republic of China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau)
- Islamic Republic of Iran
- Czech Republic
We suspect the same posture will apply for additional countries, as they are added to the list(s).
Passenger ships raise an entirely different set of issues and questions.
2. What about injured crew members who need to get off a ship to be repatriated?
Per 42 CFR 71.21, vessels destined for a U.S. port are required to report to the CDC any sick or deceased crew/passengers during the 15 days prior to arrival at the U.S. port. Specific guidance to vessels on how and when to report deaths and illnesses to the CDC can be found at: https://go.usa.gov/xdjmj. U.S. flagged commercial vessels are also advised to report ill crew members in accordance with the requirements of each foreign port called upon.
We have not seen further change to this other than the temporary measures that are put in place under the MSIB 02-20 Change 1 (attached) and the Presidential Proclamation.
Again, the 14-day quarantine period for the countries described in the proclamations will be enforced. By way of example, it seems the U.S.’s current policy for vessels/crew members who’ve recently been in China and Iran is to restrict crew to vessel if the transit was 14 days or fewer.
Finally, repatriation will be affected by flight shortages and other security concerns brought about by COVID-19.
3. What if you have a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case aboard the ship? Will the ship be quarantined? Could the vessel let the infected crew member off? If so, would the infected crew member be quarantined? Again, would their visa status matter?
The closest quarantine area we have for vessels calling in Puget Sound and/or the Columbia River is Port Angeles, WA. Check for your closest quarantine location.
As noted above, per 42 CFR 71.21, vessels destined for a U.S. port are required to report to the CDC any sick or deceased crew/passengers during 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: https://go.usa.gov/xdjmj. U.S. flagged commercial vessels are also advised to report ill crew members in accordance with the requirements of each foreign port called upon.
As noted in MSIB 02-20, maritime facility operators are reminded that they are not permitted to impede the embarkation/disembarkation of crew members as permitted under 33 CFR §105.237, Seafarers’ Access to Maritime Facilities regulation. This authority resides with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Coast Guard, or CDC for medical matters. Facility operators should contact their local CBP, Coast Guard, or CDC/health department offices regarding specific questions or concerns about their individual operations.
4. Can or will entire vessel be quarantined if they are coming from countries covered by the “ban”? Can a cargo ship coming from Italy, for example, expect to be quarantined upon arrival at a U.S. port?
At present, and subject to any reporting requirements above, and how agencies might respond to reports of infected crew, vessels should not expect quarantines or other significant delays upon entry to the United States. So far, U.S. agencies are treating transit times as adequate quarantine periods, and unless a vessel reports sick or infected crew upon entry, vessels should not expect additional quarantine measures.
If you have any specific questions, please contact us.
In the meantime, here are a few documents you can take a look at:
- Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB 02-20) (Change 1) – Novel Coronavirus – Update (Change 1)
- Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus
- The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has issued guidance for the global shipping industry to help combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The document has been produced with collaborative input from the World Health Organization (WHO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and International Maritime Health Association (IMHA).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) situation summary