Staying Afloat: Berthing a Liability Defense to COVID-19 Claims

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially adopted the name of “COVID-19” for the new strain of the Coronavirus, which is a pandemic. COVID-19 is affecting the world, which has disrupted the travel and the closure of schools, universities, public buildings, with the postponing of the events daily.
There is also a significant effect on the cruise lines after the virus outbreak, and presently, the Grand Princess has been lockdown is set to dock in California. All the travelers are transported and quarantined at a military facility as a result of the positive Coronavirus. At the same time, another Princess cruise ship—the Caribbean Princess will remain at Fort Lauderdale until further notice and two members tested for Covid19. After the two crew tested negative, the dock was allowed to dock in the fort.

Cruise ships provide a luxurious environment with a view of floating cities. Also, due to the closed environment, the people are in touch with them directly, even the crew members. It is research that the virus spreads through air i.e., it transfers from one person to another by contact via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. To date, there is no known immunization. Therefore, it can be transferred through the vast surface of a ship from the infected person by touching an object with a virus-infected and then touching their mouth, eyes, ears, nose, etc.

Various guidelines by International Maritime Organization (“IMO”), the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), the World Health Organization (“WHO”), and the Cruise Lines International Association (“CLIA”) are published. 

Centers for Disease Control
Centers for Disease Control made revisions on February 18, s2020, in his previous publication entitled “Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected Coronavirus Disease 2019.” CDC provides guidelines for ships originating from or stopping in, the United eStates, to help prevent, detect, and medically manage suspected COVID-19 infections. The CDC suggested that crafts encourage both crew members and passengers to:

  • To Postpone travel when not feeling well or sick;
  • Watch their health before boarding;
  • Self-isolate and inform the onboard medical center immediately if they develop a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, begin to feel feverish, or develop other signs or symptoms of sickness;
  • Use respiratory, cough, and hand hygiene (advise passengers and crew of the importance of covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and disposing of that tissue immediately in the proper manner)
  • Wash often hands with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing (or to utilize hand sanitizer containing 60%-95% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable).

Cruise Lines International Association
On March 8, 2020, CLIA published its Statement on COVID-19. Every cruise line is a member of CLIA and has been made aware of this publication. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, CLIA has adopted below measurements:

  • Deny boarding to all persons that have traveled from, visited, or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and any municipality in Italy.
  • Conduct illness screening for all persons who have traveled from, visited, or transited via airports in any destination listed on the U.S. CDC Coronavirus 2019 Information for Travel page within 14 days before embarkation.
  • Conduct temperature screening: Any individual with a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is to receive a secondary selection to include a more comprehensive medical assessment
  • Deny boarding to all passengers who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having COVID-19
  • Conduct pre-boarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures.

World Health Organization
World Health Organization’s Handbook, though originally published in 2005, has been continuously updated to reflect new and changing methods of guidance in response to the various viruses and global health concerns that have recognized over the past fifteen years. After the outbreak of the Coronavirus, WHO recommends that all cruise ships maintain a copy of the most updated version of the Handbook onboard at all times so that the ship’s crew is aware of the WHO’s recommended health measures to combat infectious diseases.

  • Use of proper handwashing techniques and antisepsis solutions (20-30 seconds of handwashing with soap and water);
  • Use of appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, impermeable gowns, eye protection);
  • Limitations on the movement and transport of the affected person from the cabin or isolation room for essential purposes only (the affected person should wear a mask during transport); and
  • Disposal of soiled personal protective equipment should mitigate any cross-contamination effects.

International Maritime Organization
Guidelines set forth by the International Maritime Organization were produced by the International Chamber of Shipping to support all types of ships operating in international waters, including cruise ships. In addition to the universal precautions provided by the WHO and CLIA (e.g., hand washing, coughing into a tissue, self-isolating), the IMO recommends that all ships should develop a written outbreak management plan so that all crew and passengers know the idea. The IMO additionally recommends using the WHO’s Handbook in conjunction with its recommendations. In that respect, the IMO further suggests that until the end of the COVID-19 outbreak, all ships provide its passengers and crew with general information on COVID-19 and implement pre-boarding screening.

The above-referenced entities have provided guidelines to cruise lines to combat the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. These guidelines are for the benefit and safety of the passengers and crew of cruise ships. However, we are still unsure of all of the causes and transmittal agents of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.