While Puerto Rico is under an island-wide lockdown from March 16 to April 12, 2020 (Governor of Puerto Rico Executive Order 23-20/March 15, 2020, as amended), which requires all persons but those providing essential services to remain at home, the seaports remain open. However, it is necessary to mention that, as a United States territory, Puerto Rico is subject to the jurisdiction of federal agencies, including the United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) and the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”). As such, USCG’s and CDC’s directives concerning COVID-19 fully apply to Puerto Rico, including those enunciated under USCG Marine Safety Informative Bulletin Number 02-20 (Change 3/March 16, 2020), copy attached for your ready reference.
Some key points include:
1. On March 13, 2020, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced that member companies were voluntarily suspending cruise ship operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days. The CDC issued a No Sail Order on March 14, 2020 to all cruise ships that had not voluntarily suspended operations. The Coast Guard will closely coordinate with CDC to facilitate a safe and expeditious return of passengers onboard cruise ships that are underway and bound for U.S. ports.
2. Maritime commerce is vital to the U.S. economy and the Coast Guard has the responsibility to safely enable the uninterrupted flow of maritime cargo.
o Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to the countries noted above or embarked crewmembers from the countries noted above within the last 14 days, with no sick crewmembers, will be permitted to enter the U.S. and conduct normal operations, provided that crewmembers remain aboard the vessel except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations. U.S. citizens or any other persons listed in Section 2 of Presidential Proclamation “Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus”, for example crewmembers with a transit and/or crewmember visa, may be permitted to disembark the vessel to conduct vessel operations pier side or for the immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. to another country. When entering the U.S. all persons must be cleared by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and, if applicable, CDC. Crewmembers without the appropriate visas will generally be required to remain onboard unless otherwise cleared for entry by CBP and, if applicable, CDC.
o Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to the countries noted above or embarked crewmembers from the countries noted above within the last 14 days, and do have sick crewmembers should expect delays and need to work with local health and port officials prior to entry.
3. All persons that have been in or through a country listed above may be subject to CDC screening prior to disembarkation.