Civil LitigationThe COVID-19 Regulatory Environment for Business and Changes to the Admiralty Industry

April 1, 20200

While COVID-19 has brought much of the business world to a standstill, the maritime industry professionals are largely still working. However, under the various federal and state restrictions, operations are nonetheless impacted. Everyone can agree that the regulatory environment for business has changed. Below is an overview of some of the maritime requirements in place, as well as some considerations for those operating in the maritime professions.

Federal Guidance

The industry is receiving guidance and directives from several sources, particularly the U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The following requirements have changed the regulatory environment for business to reflect operations while COVID-19 remains a threat.

U.S. Coast Guard

From the Coast Guard, there are seven relevant Marine Security Information Bulletins (or MSIBs) related to COVID-19. The MSIBs highlight requirements for vessels and crew in the regulatory environment for business related to those vessels.

  • MSIB 02-20 (Change 3): requirement that all COVID-19 illnesses and cases of persons who exhibit symptoms consistent with the virus be reported to the Coast Guard Captain of the Port; advises U.S. flagged commercial vessels to report illnesses onboard according to the requirements of the foreign ports called upon (while not directly in the U.S.’s regulatory environment for business, it is strongly recommended by the Coast Guard); lists a number of temporary restrictions when calling U.S. ports, which masters and crew should be aware of.
  • MSIB 06-20: details vessel reporting requirements for illnesses and deaths aboard vessels.
  • MSIB 07-20: lists the port and facility operations requirements; describes process for deviating from the various requirements in order to avoid noncompliance with the regulatory environment for business at the ports and terminals.
  • MSIB 08-20: lists various merchant mariner credential endorsements which will be extended in order to avoid expirations.
  • MSIB 09-20: gives the procedure for vessel inspections, including fishing vessel safety inspections.
  • MSIB 10-20: reviews drug testing policies.
  • MSIB 11-20: clarifies which workers are considered “essential for sustaining the continuous flow of maritime commerce.”

Vessels destined for U.S. ports are required to report all illnesses and deaths during the 15 days prior to arrival to the CDC. The cargo ship guidance and how to report is available online, as is the cruise ship guidance. The cruise ship industry is under a 30-day No Sail Order which began on March 13, 2020.


For now, the enrollment centers operated by the TSA are still open, though their hours may have changed or been limited. The TSA recommends applying to renew your Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) or Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) at least 60-90 days in advance of the expiration date to avoid potential lapses in validity. The regulatory environment for business created thus far does not have an automatic exemption or extension in place for those workers with expired TWIC cards and/or HMEs.

Other Guidelines

Guidelines are being released by various industry associations as well. For example, the American Waterways Operators released guidelines listing best practices for the tug, towing, and barge industries. Many of these businesses are updating contingency plans based on these guidelines in addition to the requirements listed above. It is thus important to look to the industry associations as well, though these are not specifically part of the regulatory environment for business.

Our next blog article will be dedicated to exploring some of the considerations in specific sectors of the maritime industry. For any questions on the above guidance, recommendations, or how your regulatory environment for business has changed, please reach out to us by phone at 401.477.0023 or email and we will do our best to assist you and your business in these uncertain times.

Leave a Reply