The new system will dictate how and when the crew can disembark ships based on the status of coronavirus infections and how long the ship has been isolated.

By Alison Fox
June 03, 2020
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will start assigning cruise ships a color-coded status to aid with the disembarking stranded crew, the agency announced this week.

The new system — which will use green, yellow, or red statuses — will dictate how and when the crew can disembark ships based on the status of coronavirus infections and how long the ship has been isolated.

If a ship is considered “Green,” it means there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or similar illness for 28 days, and crew will be allowed to fly home via commercial transportation. That is a change from April when the CDC prohibited passengers or crew from boarding a commercial flight upon disembarking and said it was the cruise line’s responsibility to arrange a chartered flight or other private transportation.

“Yellow” ships have one or more cases of COVID-like illness pending a test, and “Red” ships have one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus or COVID-like illness within the past 28 days. For “Yellow” and “Red” ships, cruise lines can arrange private transportation to repatriate crew.

Additionally, the CDC requires cruise lines designated “Yellow” or “Red” to relocate onboard crew to single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms, cancel face-to-face employee meetings, and close public spaces like gyms.

There are currently more than 62,000 crew members waiting to go home, the Miami Herald reported.

This color-coded system follows the agency’s No Sail Order, which was originally implemented in March and has since been extended. In order to get a color designation, ships must first have a “complete and accurate No Sail Order response plan,” the CDC noted.

The guidance comes as several cruise lines have looked to restart sailings this summer.

Carnival Cruise Line has said it intends to sail to the Caribbean and the Bahamas starting August 1. And Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines said it is looking to set sail this month, traversing the Columbia and Snake Rivers on June 20. Their ship, which can accommodate up to 184 guests, will be capped at 75 percent capacity.