This release has been issued for public information and notification purposes only. 

Marine Safety Information Bulletin 13-20,  

COVID 19 – Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC®) Operations 

The uninterrupted flow of commerce on our Marine Transportation System (MTS) is critical to both National Security and National economic well-being. During this National emergency for COVID-19 it is paramount that the Coast Guard safeguards the continued operation of the MTS to ensure our domestic supply chain continues uninterrupted. The regulations outlined throughout 33 and 46 Code of Federal Regulations remain in force, and maritime operators are expected to continue to comply with these requirements. However, when compliance with these regulations cannot reasonably be met as a result of COVID-19, the Coast Guard will exercise flexibility to prevent undue delays. The following clarification is provided regarding the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC®), which is jointly managed by the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA may grant a temporary exemption from certain requirements in 49 CFR part 1572 for the expiration of the TWIC for current cardholders. If this occurs the Coast Guard will take these exemptions into consideration. 

Maritime Facilities and Vessels: 

TWIC Readers - the Coast Guard is not changing or delaying the TWIC Reader Rule implementation date of June 7, 2020, for facilities that receive vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers and vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers. However, the Coast Guard will delay enforcement until October 5, 2020. Applicable facilities and vessels are not required to update facility security plans (FSP)/vessel security plans (VSP) or install readers until the revised enforcement date. 

Escort Ratios – Escort ratios for secure and restricted areas of a facility are provided in Navigation and Inspection Circular (NVIC) 03-07. To provide flexibility due to COVID-19 related health impacts, the escort ratio may be adjusted to meet employee shortages or other demands. This would constitute a change to the FSP or require Captain of the Port approval via noncompliance (discussed below and in MSIB 07-20). 

New Hires – After enrollment has been completed and a new hire has presented an acceptable form of identification per 33 CFR 101.515(a) to the vessel security officer or facility security officer, that new hire may be allowed access to secure or restricted areas where another person(s) is present who holds a TWIC and can provide reasonable monitoring. The side-by-side escorting required in 33 CFR 101.105 for restricted areas will not be enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional compliance options for new hires can be found in 33 CFR 104.267 and 105.257 or via noncompliance (discussed below). 

Alternative Security Program (ASP) – Local users who are unable to comply with the requirements in an approved ASP may pursue temporary relief via noncompliance (discussed below) or an amendment can be submitted to cover the entire ASP via submission to CG-FAC. 

Noncompliance – 33 CFR 104.125 and 105.125 discusses noncompliance with facility and vessel security requirements. If a situation arises where a facility or vessel will not be able to comply with the requirements of 33 CFR parts 104 or 105, they must contact the Captain of the Port (COTP) to request and receive permission to temporarily deviate from the requirements. While not discussed in 33 CFR 104.125 or 105.125, the vessel or facility operator should evaluate and consider any safety risks that may be created from the noncompliance. This request to continue operations should include new measures or safeguards the facility or vessel plans to employ to mitigate any risk from the non-compliance with 33 CFR part 104 or 105. 

This release has been issued for public information and notification purposes only. 

Merchant Mariner Credentials 

The Coast Guard is providing flexibility with regard to requirements to have a TWIC when applying for a credential or when serving under the authority of a credential. To date, the processing of submitted TWIC enrollments has not been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and there is no delay in vetting, card production, and issuance. However, TSA and the Coast Guard recognize that this is an evolving public health situation and enrollment centers closures or processing delays will impact applicants for a merchant mariner credential (see below for more on TSA enrollment centers). 

Under the 46 CFR 10.203(b), failure to hold a valid TWIC may serve as grounds for suspension or revocation of a merchant mariner credential (MMC). The Coast Guard will not pursue any suspension and revocation actions based on expired TWIC’s during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coast Guard will update industry prior to reinstating enforcement of this requirement. This enforcement discretion for expired TWICs does not apply to cases where a mariner’s TWIC has been suspended or revoked due to a determination that they are a security threat. In those cases, the Coast Guard may pursue suspension or revocation of the MMC. 

With respect to expired TWICs in the MMC application process, mariners applying for an original credential will be treated differently than mariners seeking a renewal, raise of grade or new endorsement. This is because the TSA provides the Coast Guard with biometric and biographic information (including the photograph) necessary to evaluate and produce a MMC. 

Mariners applying for an original credential need to demonstrate that they have enrolled for a TWIC. Mariners may pre-enroll for a TWIC online, can schedule an appointment, but must complete the in-person enrollment process at the nearest TSA enrollment center. While this proof of application is sufficient to begin the merchant mariner credentialing process, an applicant for an original credential will be unable to obtain a MMC until their biographic and biometric information is provided to the Coast Guard by TSA. 

For mariners already holding a MMC, if their TWIC expires, and their credential remains valid, then no action needs to be taken and the credential remains valid. 

If a mariner applies for a renewal, raise of grade, new endorsement or duplicate merchant mariner credential while their TWIC is expired, they may apply without a valid TWIC if they demonstrate that they have enrolled for a TWIC renewal. 

TSA Enrollment Centers TSA’s Enrollment Centers remain open, at this time, and TSA is processing new TWIC enrollments. According to TSA, some enrollment centers have closed and may continue to close for a period of time to ensure the safety, health and wellness of staff and the public. If applicants are planning to visit an enrollment center, TSA encourages individuals to use the “Find an Enrollment Center” feature at the bottom of the Universal Enrollment Services home page (https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/locator) to determine if the center is open and its hours of operation. TWIC enrollments must be completed in-person at an enrollment center. You will be required to provide the necessary identity/immigration documentation and submit fingerprints during your in-person enrollment. It is recommended that you schedule an appointment. You may pre-enroll and schedule an appointment online (https://universalenroll.dhs.gov). 

Richard V. Timme, RDML, U. S. Coast Guard, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy sends 

U.S. Coast Guard Date: April 3, 2020 
Commandant MSIB Number: 13-20   
Inspections and Compliance Directorate 
2703 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE, STOP 7501 
Washington, DC 20593-7501 E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Good friends,
 
The COVID situation is a challenge for all of us.  I certainly hope that you, your families, and your employees are all safe and healthy.
 
Maintaining security during these times is one of the many priorities we must meet.  We recently published a blog on this topic you can read here: https://seebald.com/blog
 
A related challenge is completing Coast Guard required audits, as well as updating Facility Security Plans on schedule.  With travel constrained, we all must make careful decisions on what business activities to postpone, and which should proceed on schedule.
 
We've been in steady contact with our Coast Guard colleagues, including those that manage the Coast Guard's overall MTSA program.  They have indicated a willingness to accommodate requests, and today they published guidance providing flexibility for vessel compliance activities.  https://mariners.coastguard.blog/2020/03/27/msib-09-20-vessel-inspections-exams-and-documentation/  I expect similar guidance for facilities in the near future.  
 
At Seebald & Associates, we will do everything possible to meet your needs, and to work with the Coast Guard on any special requests.  In some cases, conducting some portions of an audit or a Facility Security Assessment electronically may be possible, with a follow up in person when appropriate.
 
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you meet your security and other compliance needs at this time.  Stay safe and healthy!

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Maritime Security

First, please know that here at Seebald & Associates, we hope that you, your family, employees, contractors, and others are safe and healthy.  You all remain in our thoughts and prayers.

The Coronavirus outbreak is a challenge for our nation.  There is excellent information on how to minimize your health risk at the Center for Disease Control: 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.  Note that this includes specific guidance for ships:  https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/maritime/recommendations-for-ships.html

The U.S. Coast Guard has also posted information on this topic, including links back the CDC, on their Maritime Commons blog.  In particular, note that the Coast Guard considers the presence of vessel personnel who show symptoms of COVID-19 or other flu like illness as a “hazardous condition” which must be reported to the nearest Captain of the Port.  While this regulation applies to vessels, not facilities, facility operators should consider making a courtesy notification to the Coast Guard if facility personnel display Coronavirus symptoms.

The Coast Guard has also posted information reminding facility operators to remain in compliance with all applicable regulations, and on merchant mariner credentials

The maritime industry has faced infectious diseases in the past, including quite recently with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016.  At Seebald & Associates, we address infectious diseases in FSO courses and other discussions.  Our security recommendations for this situation are as follows:

  • To the maximum extent possible, ensure your personnel are aware of, and following, the guidance put out by the CDC and others concerning social distancing and sanitation.
  • Consider that accidents, security lapses, and other undesired events often occur when there has been a break in routine, or personnel are districted by unusual events. Remind your personnel to focus on safety, security, and following established procedures.
  • Recognize that your security may not be at its peak due to some employees working from home, or if some of your regular security personnel have been replaced with temporary or new workers. Remind your security forces and “All Others” to be alert for suspicious activity or other security concerns.
  • Cyber security is also a concern. An unusual volume of telework will put a strain on your IT department’s ability to monitor and secure such traffic. Ensure employees follow established policies while conducting telework and using VoIP systems.  Also, be aware of scams and misinformation; stick to reliable government and public health websites. 
  • Consider what procedures you would follow if you needed to allow an ambulance or other emergency/public health vehicles into your facility in order to assist a vessel crew member or facility employee with health issues. Such a situation would require attention to access control, vehicle transit through the facility, establishing a perimeter around the vessel and/or patient, notifications, and monitoring.

The Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy has published an update March 16, 2020 to MSIB: Novel Coronavirus – Update (Change 2)

An outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may affect mariners and maritime commerce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected Coronavirus Disease 2019 (see https://go.usa.gov/xdfyG) and Cruise Ship Travel (see https://go.usa.gov/xdfVP).

Illness of a person onboard any vessel that may adversely affect the safety of a vessel or port facility is a hazardous condition per 33 CFR 160.216 and must be reported immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP). Cases of persons who exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must be reported to the COTP.

The Coast Guard considers it a hazardous condition under 33 CFR 160.216 if anyone, regardless of where they have been or who they have interacted with, shows symptoms of COVID-19 or other flu like illness. This requires immediate notification to the nearest Coast Guard COTP.

Per 42 CFR 71.21, vessels destined for a U.S. port are required to report to the CDC any sick or deceased crew/passengers during 15 days prior to arrival at the U.S. port. Guidance to vessels to report deaths and illnesses to the CDC can be found at: https://go.usa.gov/xdjmj. U.S. flagged commercial vessels are also advised to report ill crewmembers in accordance with the requirements of each foreign port called upon.

Presidential Proclamations have placed entry restrictions from persons arriving from or through the following countries: Iran, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), the European states within the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), and beginning at 11:59 p.m. eastern standard daylight savings time on March 16, 2020, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Vessel owners/operators and local stakeholders should be aware of the following:

  • 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 Orderon 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

All persons that have been in or through a country listed above may be subject to CDC screening prior to disembarkation.

Vessel owners and operators should be aware of the following:

  • The Coast Guard will continue to review all “Notice of Arrivals” in accordance with current policies and will communicate any concerns stemming from sick or deceased crew or passengers to their Coast Guard chain of command and the cognizant CDC quarantine station, who will coordinate with local health authorities
  • All commercial vessel operators and mariners are encouraged to exercise due diligence during daily operations and highly encouraged to follow the CDC Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected Coronavirus Diseases 2019.
  • Vessel masters shall inform Coast Guard boarding teams of any ill crewmembers on their vessel prior to embarking the team.
  • Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard COTP, should review and be familiar with section 5310 Procedures for Vessel Quarantine and Isolation, and Section 5320 – Procedures for Security Segregation of Vessels in their Area Maritime Security Plan.
  • Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard COTP, should review and be familiar with their Marine Transportation System Recovery Plan.
  • Maritime facility operators are reminded that they are not permitted to impede the embarkation/disembarkation of crew members as permitted under Seafarer’s access regulations. This authority resides with CBP, Coast Guard, or the CDC for medical matters. Facility operators should contact their local CBP, Coast Guard, or CDC/health department offices if they have a specific request to restrict a crew member’s access.
  • he Coast Guard recommends that people review the CDC travel guidance (see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html) and the U.S. Department of State (DoS) Travel Advisories related to COVID-19 at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

New Seafarer Access requirements for 2020

Seafarer’s Access is in the news once again and it is time to prepare.  The Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance recently published a Marine Safety Information Bulletin on this topic, reminding facility operators of the requirements, including key dates.

In plain language, the purpose of the Seafarer’s Access Final Rule is to ensure that waterfront facilities have a way to accommodate mariners who wish to transit through a Maritime Transportation Security Act regulated facility in order to go into town, or to return to or join the ship.  The regulation also applies to pilots, and to members of Seafarer welfare organizations, like Seaman’s Church Institute. 

Most of us who work with mariners can appreciate the need to treat our seafarers with dignity, and to find ways to improve the quality of their lives without compromising security.

The next milestone in the Seafarer’s Access program is February 3, 2020.  By that date, facility operators must have a system for accommodating Seafarer Access documented in their Facility Security Plans.  This will require an amendment to your Facility Security Plan.  Given that the Coast Guard requires facility operators to submit amendments 60 days in advance, you should have submitted your amendment already.   The Coast Guard will commence enforcing the seafarers access June 1, 2020 which means your seafarers access system must be in place.

Not sure of what, exactly, is required or how to get it to the Coast Guard for approval?  Not to worry, Seebald & Associates are here to help.  We have been incorporating Seafarer Access procedures in our audits, and submitting the necessary amendments to the Coast Guard for approval, since the Final Rule was published.  We are also incorporating Seafarer Access into Facility Security Assessments and Facility Security Plans.

We are glad to review your plan and develop an amendment that will meet Coast Guard regulations and align with your business operations.  With Seebald & Associates, you have access to experts on Seafarer’s Access – and to the finest maritime security risk experts available anywhere.