Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - Information for industry and stakeholders

As a special operating agency of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard ensures public safety on the water, protects the marine environment, supports economic growth, and ensures Canada's sovereignty and security by establishing and maintaining a strong federal presence in our waters.

The Canadian Coast Guard is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the Canadian maritime industry, stakeholders and Coast Guard operations. The Questions and Answers below will be updated as the COVID-19 situation develops.

Questions and Answers

How is the Canadian Coast Guard staying in touch with Indigenous communities, industry, and stakeholders?

The Canadian Coast Guard has a strong presence throughout Canada and extensive contacts with governments, Indigenous communities, industry and other stakeholders. Coast Guard regions and operations are in regular contact with federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, as well as industry stakeholders to maintain operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact with partners and stakeholders is done through regular teleconferences, as well as previously established meeting channels (such as Central and Arctic Region’s regular teleconference with stakeholders regarding the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway). The Coast Guard will continue communications through established channels, and will be responsive to questions and concerns raised by any of these groups.

How will the Canadian Coast Guard maintain current operations such as search and rescue, icebreaking and environmental response?

The Coast Guard’s operational priorities are to maintain current operations including search and rescue (which includes Marine Communication and Traffic Services), environmental response, icebreaking and flood control, aids to navigation services focusing on priority aids, and maritime domain awareness, as well as support to other departmental programs such as conservation and protection, science, and Canadian hydrographic services. We are also prepared to assist other government departments as necessary.

The Coast Guard has updated business continuity plans for all the National Command Centres, Joint Rescue Coordination Centres, Marine Rescue Sub-Centres, Marine Communications and Traffic Services, Regional Operations Centres and Marine Security Operations Centres, and all other sectors that provide critical services including the Coast Guard fleet.

The Coast Guard has prepared plans to ensure its vessels remain crewed and centres remain staffed, and has put in place contingency plans to maintain these critical services. It is the Coast Guard’s priority to maintain a normal level of the services described above, so that maritime activity including fishing and the movement of essential goods may continue undisturbed. The Coast Guard will aim to preserve the integrity of these operations by reprioritizing personnel, assets, and centres to maintain operational readiness.

If the Coast Guard is tasked to respond to an incident involving a suspected case of COVID-19, are members equipped with the recommended personal protection equipment?

Yes, Coast Guard first responders responding to an incident with a suspected case of COVID-19 are prepared and instructed to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. To date, the Coast Guard has not assisted with any incidents involving suspected cases of the virus.

The Coast Guard has issued guidelines to frontline staff who may be required to board a vessel due to a potential loss of life or serious injury. These guidelines include: how to identify if someone could be infected; infection control procedures such as recommended personal protection equipment; and post- exposure guidance. In addition, Coast Guard crew responding to incidents at sea are trained in first aid.

Is the Coast Guard intercepting or boarding cruise ships or other vessels that may be carrying COVID-19? What measures would be taken to protect the safety of Coast Guard employees and passengers in such situations?

The Canadian Coast Guard is a critical partner in supporting marine domain awareness, and works with other departments and agencies through Marine Security Operations Centres and the Government Operations Centre to support their mandates.

Should on-water interdiction be required, the Coast Guard would be a key partner. In the case of a marine search and rescue incident on a vessel suspected of having a case involving COVID-19, the Coast Guard and its search and rescue partner, the Department of National Defence, are prepared to respond and have the tools and equipment to keep their workforce protected and healthy and to remain at the ready to continue serving Canadians. The safety of our people is our highest priority and our policies and procedures have been amended in light of COVID-19.

To date, the Coast Guard has not assisted with any incidents involving suspected cases of the virus.

How many crew members are on Coast Guard vessels?

The number of crew varies by size of the vessel. It could range from two crew members to dozens.

Are crew members keeping a safe distance from each other?

It is difficult to stay a prescribed distance away from your colleagues on a ship. Marine search and rescue is a critical service and often a matter of life and death, and during a search and rescue response Coast Guard crew members are required to work in very close proximity to each other. During regular operations they are taking all precautions to work at further distances from each other, in line with the advice of health professionals.

Have or will employees be tested before they go on these missions?

We are committed to the health and safety of our members, while continuing to provide our critical services to Canadians, mariners and our partners.

All individuals required to board a Coast Guard vessel are subject to a questionnaire and on-site temperature check by a qualified Coast Guard rescue specialist or medical officer, before being granted access.

We are directing crew members who are showing symptoms to stay home, and to get tested for COVID-19. We are prepared to reprioritize and move people and assets as needed to maintain operational readiness.

Emergency situations in Canadian waters are a reality, and the Coast Guard stands ready to respond when they arise.

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