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. 

Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland

Duration:  This Bulletin will expire on or before January 18, 2020 at 1:00pm EST

  • The United States designated Iran a "State Sponsor of Terrorism" in 1984 and since then, Iran has actively engaged in or directed an arrary of violent and deadly acts against he United States and its citizens globally.  The United States deisgnated Iran's Islamic Revoluntionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a Foregin Terrorist Organization on April 15, 2019 for its direct involvement in terrorist plotting.
  • On January 2, 2020, the United States carried out a lethal strike in Iraq killing Iranian IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani while Soleimani was in Iraq.
  • Iranian leadership and several affiliated violent extremist organizations publicly stated they intend to retaliate against the United States.
  • At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland.  Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated the intent and cabability to conduct operation in the United States.
  • Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S. based targets.
  • Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks agains the United States.  Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.
  • Iran likely views terrorists activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries.  In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.
  • Homegrown Violent Extremists could capitalize on the heightened tensions to launch individual attacks.
  • An attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to detect and defend against threats to the Homeland, and will enhance security measures as necessary.

How You Can Help

  • Report suspicious activitiy to local law enforcement wo are best to offer specific details on terroristic indicators.
  • Report suspicious activity or information about a threat, including online activity, to fusion centers and the FBI's Field Offices - part of the Nationwide Suspicious Acitivity Reporting Initiative.

Be Prepared

  • Be prepared for cyber disruptions, suspicious emails, and network delays.
  • Be responsible for your personal safety.  Know where emergency exits and security personnel are located.  Carry emergency contact and special needs information with you.
  • Implement basic cyber hygience practices such as effecting datea backups and employing multi-factor authentication.  For more information visit CISA.gov
  • Connect, Plan, Train, and Report to prepare businesses & employees.  Security tools/resources can be accessed through the DHS's Hometown Security Campaign.

Stay Informed

  • The U.S. Government will provide additional information about any emerging threat as additional information is identified.  The public is encourage to listen to local law enforcement and public safety officials.
  • We urge Amercians to continue to travel, attend public events, and feely associate with others but remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings.

 

 

Recently, several experienced U.S. Coast Guard facilities inspectors reported finding these issues at numerous facilities:

  • Documented drills focused on portions of the facility not regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA); often these drills were dictated by corporate headquarters.  Although inappropriately filed with MTSA-required documentation, these drills do not fulfill MTSA’s monthly requirement.
  • The same drills completed month after month.
  • Safety drills filed as security drills, although the drill was stopped before actually exercising any potential security nexus. (for example, a fire at the plant could result in the fire department being summoned, but drill stopped before Personnel with Security Duties (PSD) are tested for their ability to receive and appropriately direct arriving emergency personnel).

What does Seebald & Associates recommend?  Your documentation is critical to making a good impression on a Coast Guard inspector.   We recommend:

  • Minimize documents given to the U.S Coast Guard  Remove drill data older than 2 years.  Do NOT include drills that fail to exercise your Facility Security Plan (FSP) or that do not relate to your MTSA-regulated footprint. 
  • If necessary, educate your corporate headquarters regarding the U.S. Coast Guard’s exclusive focus on  your FSP and the MTSA-regulated footprint; if your HQ still requires drills outside this limited purview, file those drills separately from your MTSA-required FSO documents.  (When police stop a motorist and ask for license and registration, is it wise to also volunteer your tax returns?  No!)
  • Vary your drill material to eventually test every element of your FSP.  Vary shifts and weekend/weekdays, keeping everyone more alert.  Conducting the same drill every month breeds complacency.
  • Collaborate closely with your safety staff.  Allowing a safety drills to progress the point where security is also tested will maximize your facility’s drill effectiveness (“killing two birds with one stone”), enhance collaboration between facility personnel, and minimize lost operational time.  The same is true for those frequent safety briefs - ask to have a couple minutes to review security information, such as the requirements for “all other” personnel to know - especially before the U.S. Coast Guard comes to inspect!

... and remember vessels at the facility during your drills!  The regulations stipulate that the facility can't force a vessel to participate in a drill, but Seebald & Associates recommend inviting them to participate as a best practice.  At a minimum, the FSO should notify the vessel that the facility is (or will be) conducting a security drill.  Drills that involve suspicious activity/packages, breach of security/possible intruder, MARSEC increase, etc. - all of these and more should involve notifying the vessel, even if the vessel doesn't want to participate (or simulated vessel notification if no vessel is actually present).