NACO Captains and Affiliates:
The National Association of Charterboat Operators is the voice of the for hire charter boat industry in the United States. As such the NACO Board of Directors has produced the following suggestions about the Covid-19 virus issue as we understand it at this time. It provides general advice, based on input from across the USA, for charter boats - fishing, diving, sailing, sightseeing, dinner cruising, eco tours, and any other vessel - carrying passengers for hire.
This is not a one size fits all recommendation on how each operator should work to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Even though many operations are similar, every operation is different and unique.
Some states and marine resource agencies have issued required guidelines which owners in those areas have to comply. These vary widely. Some states, counties and municipalities have simply implied owners should follow CDC guidelines. In others, strict rules have been dictated for charter boat operators to follow. In addition, some local charter associations have developed guidelines for their members which should also be followed the best they can.
NACO recommends each member develop a written protocol on how to ensure your vessel and equipment remains safe and uninfected. This should include:
1) How you will sanitize any area where customers and crew could be exposed including the boat, equipment, gear, booking booth or others.
2) List how you intend to disinfect and clean before, during and after each trip.
3) List what personal cleaning agents (hand sanitizer, hand soap, etc) will be available for use.
4) If you intend to check body temperature of customers and crew list how and when that will be done.
5) If you require the use of masks, list if the customer should provide their own or if you will provide them and when to wear them.
6) List how you plan to ensure social distancing where possible to keep customers separated.
7) Once you have developed your guidelines, print them out and post them on your vessel and work place. Have printed copies available to provide to customers should they ask for one.
8) Develop a basic orientation similar to your normal safety orientation you use before departing.
NACO members from across the country have provided input and we know in some areas specific requirements by government authorities are treated only as “suggestions” while in others, the leaders may order arrests for non-compliance. You know your own situation better than anyone. You should make the decision on what is best for your particular operation. Clearly, charters of family groups or groups of friends can be handled differently than strangers or groups of non-related people.
The most critical issue here is your potential liability should an accident or medical issue come up. Check your marine insurance policy liability section, or call your agent to determine if your coverage depends on following federal, state, or local regulations. Insurance companies are notorious for looking for an out on payment for any accident or liability. Be certain of what your policy states.
We hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions, please contact us. In many cases, especially at the state and local level, individuals or representatives of local charter associations have been able to affect changes or exceptions to Executive Orders or other general rules concocted by bureaucrats and political leaders, simply by contacting them politely. If you would like additional support at your local or state level, feel free to contact NACO and make us aware of your problem. We will be happy to provide a letter of support or make a phone call to whomever to help with your situation.
Thank you, stay healthy, stay safe.
NACO Board of Directors