US orders vessel restrictions due to coronavirus

The following is text of a news release from Coast Guard Maritime Commons:

(WASHINGTON) — The Coast Guard director of incident management and preparedness on Monday issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin 02-20, “novel coronavirus,” to provide additional information and guidance to the maritime community regarding the current novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

2019-nCoV was first detected in Wuhan, People's Republic of China and has since spread globally. There are several known coronaviruses that infect people, usually causing only mild respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold. However, 2019-nCoV appears capable of causing illness that is more serious. Signs and symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of 2019-nCoV constituted a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30, and the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the 2019-nCoV situation to be a public health emergency in the United States Jan. 31. HHS issued a quarantine order for specific airline passengers returning to the United States from the Hubei Province of China. On Jan. 31, the president of the United States then issued a proclamation on the suspension of entry as immigrants and non-immigrants who pose a risk of transmitting novel coronavirus. This proclamation includes temporary suspension of foreign nationals (with some exceptions such as vessel crewmembers) who were physically present in the People's Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, to enter in effect Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 Travel Health Warning to avoid all nonessential travel to China and the U.S. Department of State increased its travel advisory for all of China to Level 4 “Do not travel to China.” The CDC Travel Health Warning contains precautions to protect travelers and others if one must travel to China.

Illness of a person onboard a 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 immediately reported to the U.S. Coast Guard captain of the port (COTP) under 33 CFR 160.206. Cases of persons who exhibit symptoms consistent with 2019-nCoV must be reported to the COTP. Such persons will be evaluated and treated on a case by case basis.

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 a U.S. port. Guidance to vessels on reporting deaths and illnesses to the CDC can be found here. U.S.-flagged commercial vessels are also advised to report ill crewmembers in accordance with the requirements of each foreign port called upon.

Vessel owners/operators and local stakeholders should be aware of the following:

• Passenger vessels or any vessel carrying passengers that have been to China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or embarked passengers who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States. If all passengers exceed 14 days since being in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) and are symptom-free, the vessel will be permitted to enter the United States to conduct normal operations. These temporary measures are in place to safeguard the American public.

• Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or embarked crewmembers who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the last 14 days, with no sick crewmembers, will be permitted to enter the U.S. and conduct normal operations, with restrictions. Crewmembers on these vessels will be required under COTP authority to remain aboard the vessel except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations.

• The Coast Guard considers it a hazardous condition under 33 CFR 160.216 if a crewmember who was in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the past 14 days is brought onboard the vessel during transit. This requires immediate notification to the nearest Coast Guard captain of the port.

• The Coast Guard will continue to review all “notices of arrival” in accordance with current policies and will communicate any concerns stemming from sick or deceased crew or passengers to their Coast Guard chain of command and the cognizant CDC quarantine station, who will coordinate with local health authorities.

• Vessel masters shall inform Coast Guard boarding teams of any ill crewmembers on their vessel prior to embarking the team and boarding teams should verify the type of illnesses with CDC if concerns arise.

• Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard captain of the port, should review and be familiar with section 5310 Procedures for Vessel Quarantine and Isolation, and Section 5320 – Procedures for Security Segregation of Vessels in their Area Maritime Security Plan.

• Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard COTP, should review and be familiar with their Marine Transportation System Recovery Plan.

For situational updates, visit the CDC’s website.

By Professional Mariner Staff