CDC Updates Guidance for Crew With Color-Coded Ship Status

Carnival ships gathering in the Bahamas in April to prepare for repatriation voyages - courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Published Jun 16, 2020 3:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for the cruise ship industry and released its first color-coded status report on the individual cruise ships in U.S. waters. In releasing the update, the CDC highlighted that these efforts are focused on the safety and wellbeing of the crew members on the ships during the current “no sail” period and as they disembark.

The CDC, however, highlighted that the information was only for crew members, saying that meeting the current criteria does not mean cruise ships can resume passenger operations. “We don’t have enough information at this time to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers. Cruise lines may need to establish additional safety measures before sailing with passengers is permitted to resume. CDC will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations as the situation evolves,” the statement said.

It is unclear though how many crew members will be affected by the CDC’s updates as they pertain only to ships in U.S. waters. The Miami Herald recently estimated that as many as 42,000 crew remained on the cruise ships waiting for reparation, down from nearly 100,000 when the industry suspended operation. Many of the cruise lines and ships, however, decided not to wait for the CDC’s actions, instead dispatching ships on reparation voyages to the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Currently, there are 30 cruises ships in and around Manila, while others have completed 14-day quarantines and departed for other ports in Asia and India. Mumbai, India has already received nearly 2,000 returning crew members, with nearly 5,000 more citizens expected to arrive this week and an additional 7,000 in the coming weeks.

According to the CDC’s guidance, to qualify to use commercial transportation for crew in the United States there must have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses on board the ship within the last 28 days as well as restrictions on ship-to-hip transfers and 14-day quarantines for anyone coming aboard from shore to the ship. In addition, the shipping line must have submitted, and the CDC approved, a response plan for the ship as well as cruise company officials having signed and submitted an acknowledgment of the completeness and accuracy of their response plan and a signed attestation for commercial travel. Only then is a ship eligible to use commercial transportation for its crew and can also lessen certain social distancing restrictions onboard.

The CDC’s color-coding status shows that only one cruise ship, Bahama Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration is currently in full compliance earning a green status. An additional 36 cruise ships are listed as “provisionally green” mostly because their response plans were currently being reviewed or revised and 13 ships are “provisionally red” meaning they have not met the 28-day requirement to show no signs of the virus and maintained crew isolation in addition to their plans either being revised or reviewed.

According to the CDC, the program only includes ships currently in U.S. waters or planning to operate from U.S. waters while the no sail order is in effect. This includes ships from Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Silver Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Virgin Voyages.

Notably absent from the chart and the program are all the ships of Carnival Corporation and its brands including Carnival, Holland America and Princess Cruises. According to a spokesperson, this is because none of the approximately 100 Carnival Corporation ships plan to operate in U.S. waters for the remainder of the no sail period. Carnival Corporation said that it had 28,000 crew “remaining to be repatriated across all our brands, but this number will be several thousand fewer this week given the efforts underway.”

The CDC plans to update the status report once a week at the close of business on Mondays. The status report can be found on the CDC’s website.