The U.S. Coast Guard advised ships registered in the Bahamas to turn to that country for help before seeking it in the U.S., even if owned by an American company or carrying American passengers, according to a memo published March 29. Because of the strain COVID-19 has placed on the maritime military branch, the Coast Guard also warned that it may sequester ships with more than 50 people aboard offshore “indefinitely” and that cruise companies would be required to arrange private transportation to land for sick passengers rather than requesting it from the Coast Guard. Requests for medical evacuations have risen sharply in the past month, according to the memo. The guidance on finding government aid could have an outsize effect: Many cruise ship companies register their vessels in the Bahamas, despite primarily carrying passengers from the U.S., because the island nation’s maritime law is less stringent than that of the United States. Because cruise passengers interact frequently with one another, the new coronavirus spreads easily aboard the massive boats, which upon return pose a threat to those on land.
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