CDC’s Conditional Sail Order – Challenges to Returning to Cruising
COVID-19 took the world by storm in January 2020, with the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declarations of a Public Health Emergency in late January. Shortly thereafter, the first major outbreak of coronavirus on a cruise ship occurred, quickly causing port States to quarantine or ban cruise ships from their ports, particularly in Asia and the South Pacific. In March, ports around the world, including in the United States, began turning away cruise ships and, on March 8, the U.S. Department of State advised against cruise travel. This was the beginning of the crisis that would face the cruise industry for the next 18+ months and possibly longer.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, followed by the U.S. declaration of a national emergency. For all intents and purposes, cruising shut down in the United States and elsewhere, due in part to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) No Sail Order and Other Measures Related to Operations, issued on March 14, 2020, which applied to cruise ships with a capacity of 250 or more (crew and passengers). The No Sail Order, which prohibited cruise ships from operating in the United States, was subsequently extended and amended several times over the course of the year. The No Sail Order also required cruise ship operators to develop plans to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships to protect crew, and obtain CDC approval for those plans.
The No Sail Order was eventually replaced by CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (“CSO”) on October 30, 2020, which was intended to set a path toward re-starting cruise operations in a way that best mitigated the spread of the coronavirus. Rather, the CSO created frustration for the cruise industry while it awaited guidance from CDC critical to implementing the CSO, which was not forthcoming for nearly six months.
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“CDC’s Conditional Sail Order – Challenges to Returning to Cruising,” by Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel was published in the Third Quarter 2021 issue of Benedict’s Maritime Bulletin (Vol. 19, No. 3), a LexisNexis publication. Reprinted with permission.