Harbor Cruise Operator Gets Cease-and-Desist Order After Viral Photo

crowded provincetown ii ferry
Image courtesy Bay State Cruise Company

Published Jul 28, 2020 10:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Massachusetts ferry operator was ordered to halt a portion of its operations Monday after bystanders noticed large numbers of passengers packed on the top deck of one of its vessels, an apparent departure from local social distancing guidelines. It was the operator's fourth cruise since reopening. 

"This weekend's mass gathering on a boat in the harbor represents a serious threat to public health, which is why today the Boston Public Health Commission together with the state's Department of Labor Standards issued a cease-and-desist order to Bay State Cruise Company," said Boston mayor Marty Walsh in a statement. “We’ve made great sacrifices and worked hard over the last few months to stop the very real and very dangerous spread of COVID-19, and it’s vital every person and every business take this public health emergency seriously, and do their part to keep their families, neighbors and communities safe."

The cease-and-desist order requires the company to halt loud music or group charters. Bay State's ferry service from Boston to Provincetown may continue as scheduled. 

In a statement, Bay State acknowledged the authenticity of a widely-circulated photo of the voyage. Though the railings were crowded on departure, the vessel was operating at just 33 percent of its normal capacity, according to the company.

Citing a lack of state-level social distancing regulations for outdoor venues and the supply of fresh air across the open decks, Bay State suggested that the cease-and-desist order was not the optimal course of action. The firm said that it will be working with the city's health department to determine what it might need to address.

"Clearly, this is a situation where the public’s view is far more important than whether or not we are conducting activities in accordance with regulations," Bay State Cruise owner and president Michael Glasfeld said in a statement. "Although we walk through the decks with signs that say 'social distance, please' during the cruise to deter grouping together of passengers, we had just gotten underway in that photo and our crew was still coiling lines. We can allocate more staff to this aspect of our cruise . . . We’ll get this right; we are committed to that effort, and understand how, in our current environment, this photo has created such a stir."