Coast Guard Relaxes Mask Requirements

In the latest sign that the COVID-19 pandemic is easing as vaccination spreads, the U.S. Coast Guard, pursuant to an updated Centers for Disease Control policy announced June 10, is relaxing the requirement to wear masks “on outdoor areas of transportation conveyances or while outdoors at transportation hubs.”

The relaxation of enforcement is not a complete abolition or suspension of mask-wearing and remain subject to certain conditions; the CDC relaxed the enforcement while it formally amends the regulation it announced January 29.

The announcement of the Coast Guard policy was made by Chief Warrant Officer Kurt Frederickson on the Maritime Commons blog.

Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 02-21 Change 2 reflects the updated enforcement of the mask requirement for commercial vessels and maritime transportation hubs. Additional guidance can be found at the Coast Guard FAQ web page. The MSIB cautions that while facility operators can exempt certain people from mask-wearing while performing specific tasks, they cannot issue a blanket exemption from mask-wearing at all times and places.

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Though the CDC is no longer requiring masks in outdoor areas, defined as “a space that is permanently open to the weather on one or more sides and, if covered by a deck or canopy, any spot on the overhead is less than 15 feet from the nearest opening,” companies may, at their discretion, continue to require mask-wearing in outdoor areas.

The CDC cautions that its updated guidance “does not supersede any federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations that still require the wearing of masks in outdoor areas of conveyances and while outdoors on transportation hubs.” The MSIB reminds mariners that state, local, tribal, and territorial laws or rules “are an acceptable equivalency for these requirements.” Operators of vessels and seaports who believe local mask-wearing requirements fit this exemption should contact the local COTP.

Operators of cruise ships subject to the Conditional Sailing Order must continue to follow the requirements on the Cruise Ship Guidance webpage. The CDC has published an updated list of frequently asked questions that can be found at its Public Transportation page,

For information about the Coast Guard MSIB, mariners can contact the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) at