Editor’s note: The following list of questions and answers on the mask order are provided to afford clarity to mariners with specific concerns. They were provided by the CDC and U.S. Coast Guard.
Q: Does the mask order apply to all commercial maritime conveyance activity in the United States?
A: Yes, the mask order applies to all persons traveling on commercial maritime conveyances into, within, or out of the United States and to all persons at U.S. seaports. The term commercial maritime conveyance means all forms of commercial maritime vessels, including but not limited to cargo ships, fishing vessels, research vessels, self-propelled barges, and all forms of passenger carrying vessels including ferries, river cruise ships, and those chartered for fishing trips, unless otherwise exempted.
Q: Which maritime vessels are exempted from CDC’s mask order?
A: Only the following maritime conveyances are exempted:
- Private maritime conveyances operated solely for personal, non-commercial use (e.g., personal watercraft),
- When the operator is the sole occupant on board the maritime conveyance, Mobile offshore drilling units and platforms, to include floating and fixed Outer Continental Shelf facilities as defined in 33 CFR 140.10, and
- Certain maritime conveyances excluded from the definition of vessels under 42 CFR 70.1:
- Fishing boats including those used for shell-fishing (Fishing vessels, fish processing vessels, and fish tender vessels as defined under 46 U.S.C § 2101 do not fall under this exemption including shell-fishing vessels. A “fishing boat” is an auxiliary craft as defined under 46 U.S.C § 4502(k) carried on board a fishing vessel.;
- Tugs which operate only locally in specific harbors and adjacent waters (Tugs which operate only locally in specific harbors and adjacent waters means tug vessels operating exclusively within a worksite and that have been issued a worksite exemption by the U.S. Coast Guard);
- Barges without means of self-propulsion;
- Construction-equipment boats and dredges; and
- Sand and gravel dredging and handling boats. Operators of the former maritime conveyances and other persons on board must observe CDC’s mask order while awaiting, boarding, or disembarking at the seaport.
Q: How is CDC defining the term seaport in the mask order?
A: The term seaport means any port of entry or any other place where persons await, board, or disembark all forms of maritime commercial conveyances (e.g., a marina or dock).
Q: Are mariners on non-passenger commercial maritime conveyances exempt from wearing a mask under the exemption for “a person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations”?
A: No, this exemption does not exempt mariners from the mask order simply by virtue of working on a non-passenger related commercial maritime conveyance. To be exempt, the mariner would need to be performing a duty that would, if a mask were worn, create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations. The exemption only applies while performing that duty.
Q: Mariners on many non-passenger-related commercial maritime conveyances (e.g., cargo and towing ships) live on board for weeks with little contact outside the crew. How should the mask order be applied onboard these conveyances during a voyage?
A: Mariners on non-passenger commercial ships should be guided by CDC’s Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected or Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in following the requirements of the mask order. Per the Interim Guidance, crew should wear masks when outside of their single occupancy cabin unless work duties prevent their safe use or necessitate personal protective equipment due to worksite hazards. Mariners would not be expected to wear a mask while they are alone and are eating, sleeping, or resting. Additionally, mariners must wear masks when other persons (e.g., visitors, pilots, inspectors) join the ship for any period of time and when mariners disembark the ship. During these activities, masks should be worn in addition to maintaining a distance of six feet between individuals.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask in my stateroom?
A: CDC guidance states that a mask should be worn when outside of individual cabins. The Coast Guard interprets this as a mask is not required within a private cabin.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask while on watch?
A: The CDC has noted that transportation hub employees do not need to wear a mask if they are the only person in the work area. The Coast Guard interprets this to mean that a mask is not required when one person is not in the same space as another person. As such, if a mariner is alone at their watch station, with no other person in the room with them, then a mask is not required.