The US Coast Guard has announced that it will no longer mandate the use of masks on public maritime vessels, which includes cruise ships and port terminals. This followed a judge’s ruling that the CDC’s mask ordinance, which applied to all people traveling on ships to, within or outside the United States and to all persons in US ports, had been cancelled.
At this time, federal agencies are reviewing the court’s decision. At least one cruise port, the Port of Boston, has announced that it will no longer apply masks in its facilities. It is increasingly likely that others will follow this example.
The US Coast Guard will not mandate the wearing of masks
As it investigates a recent judge’s ruling banning a mask mandate at cruise terminals and other travel hubs, the United States Coast Guard will no longer enforce the mask mandate. This means that guests, by law, will not be required to wear a mask when boarding the ship.
In a safety bulletin, the Coast Guard said the following: “On April 18, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Intermediate District of Florida overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate for mask wearing at airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs as well as in airplanes, buses, trains, and most other public transportation in the United States, including ships.
“Consistent with this decision, the CDC has declared that the warrant is no longer in effect. Federal agencies are reviewing the court’s decision. In the meantime, the Coast Guard will not enforce guidelines requiring the wearing of masks in public transport and in transport hubs.
While the TSA enforces federal rules at airport terminals, the US Coast Guard is responsible for all ports and port facilities, directly affecting whether or not a port should mandate masks.
At least one port no longer requires masks
While most cruise lines are quick to emphasize that they decide what happens on board, guests must adhere to federal rules on face coverings at port-of-call terminals.
Massport, the organization behind Logan Airport and Flynn Cruise Port in Boston, said masks are no longer required in their terminals:Masks are optional. The TSA no longer requires face masks at the airport, cruise terminal and on buses operated by Massport.
When the decision was issued on April 19, Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald said customers will still be required to wear a mask in terminals. However, this position of the cruise line may soon change due to the recent statement from the Coast Guard.
The question is whether major homeports such as Port Canaveral, PortMiami and Port Everglades will follow Massport’s lead and act on the Coast Guard’s announcement.
Port Everglades said in a previously released statement that it is following the policies established by the Coast Guardmaking it more likely it will drop the mask mandate at its cruise terminals.
Are masks still mandatory on cruise ships?
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle will have little to no effect on policies on board cruise ships. There are several reasons for this.
Cruise lines already don’t require masks in most situations. Only unvaccinated passengers, who are in most cases children, are required to wear masks on the vast majority of cruise ships.
Second, cruise lines have opted into the CDC’s voluntary COVID-19 program for cruise ships. As Cruise Hive reported yesterday, cruise lines and the CDC still have the right to require passengers to follow onboard guidelines in the name of safety. If this includes wearing a mask in the event of an outbreak, customers will need to comply.
Masks have been a hot topic for many people over the past couple of years and have kept many from booking a cruise until mask mandates have been fully rescinded.
However, while it’s a step in that direction, the fact is that the US Coast Guard and TSA statement just makes traveling to ships a little more comfortable for those who don’t want to carry of mask.