– The boating
industry continues to operate in the state, but under strict COVID-19 related restrictions outlined by the state Department of Environmental Management as a result of an executive order by Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“Rhode Island municipalities are responsible for enforcing any quarantine order by the governor on vessels within their jurisdiction,” said Gail Mastrati, DEM spokesperson. “DEM does not have a role in this.”
Usually, it is up to city and town councils to appoint a “sentinel.” Under state of emergency
powers, City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. appointed Harbormaster Tim Mills as Newport’s sentinel.
The crew and passengers in any boat coming from out-of-state must quarantine on the vessel here for 14 days and must wave a quarantine flag known as the “International Maritime Signal Flag L-Lima.”
For a ship docked in a harbor the flag means, “The ship is quarantined,” while at sea it says, “You should stop your vessel instantly,” according to online information.
“All sailors know what it is,” said City Communications
Officer Tom Shevlin about the flag. There is currently a ship up from Antigua
flying the flag in the Newport
Shipyard, he said.
may provide support to the vessels under quarantine under the executive order.
“Travel time for boats coming from either abroad or out of state is not being taken into account for the 14-day quarantine period,” DEM says in its “COVID-19 for Marina, Yacht Club and Harbor Master Guidance” document.
carriers can come into port, unload materials, and then leave port, the crew may not leave the ship.
is allowed for Rhode Island residents. However, “out-of-state residents may not come into a Rhode Island yard to work
on their boat unless they are prepared to quarantine aboard the vessel for 14 days,” DEM says.
At the marinas, use of the facilities is limited to seasonal slip holders only. “Use of facilities by transients and out-of-state boaters should be prohibited,” DEM says.
charter boats may not enter or do business in Rhode Island is another in a long list of restrictions.
“As the summer season approaches, many of you have started placing docks, providing boat service
to ready vessels to be placed in the water
, and installation
and preparation of mooring
fields,” DEM said in a statement. “Although these are non-essential and elective, these operations are an important part of our economy and way of life.”
“Recreational boating and fishing
are ingrained in the culture of the Ocean State,” said DEM spokesperson Mastrati. “They also are important economic drivers: 54,000 boats use Rhode Island waters each year, including more than 40,000 registered in Rhode Island.”
By state law, city or town councils can appoint a sentinel “to hail all ships or vessels which may arrive in that river, bay, or harbor; and if the sentinel shall find that any ship or vessel is subject to quarantine, he or she shall direct the commander of that ship or vessel to come to anchor
within the limits of that quarantine ground, and remain there until visited by the health
officer, and to place a signal in the shrouds of the vessel in a manner as to be seen at a proper distance.”
The sentinel is “subject to the orders and directions” of state Director of Health
Dr. Nichole Alexander-Scott, according to a copy of the state statute sent to the Daily News by Mastrati.
“Any person knowingly violating any of those rules and regulations
so made and established shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than fifty dollars ($50.00) or be imprisoned not more than two (2) years,” state law says.
Hundreds of marine
businesses and thousands of employees around the state are affected by the new restrictions. Safe Harbor Marinas is one of the boating companies dealing with the new environment
caused by the spread of the coronavirus.
“If you are an out-of-state vessel owner, please reach out to your General Manager or Service
Manager,” wrote Tim Moll, regional vice president of Safe Harbor Marinas in a statement sent out by Newport Shipyard, a Safe Harbor marina.
“They will make sure that any spring commissioning items that you need to get your boat prepared for the season are completed, or if you want to schedule a launch date,” Moll added.
Besides the Newport Shipyard, which Safe Harbor purchased last year, the national company also owns two marinas in Portsmouth: New England
Boatworks in the Melville waterfront district and the former Brewer Yacht Yard marina in Common Fence Point that was rebranded as Sakonnet Marina.
The company’s other marinas in Rhode Island include Safe Harbor Cowesett and Safe Harbor Greenwich Bay, both in Warwick, Safe Harbor Wickford Cove in North Kingstown, and Safe Harbor Cove Haven in Barrington.
There are permitted activities for out-of-state businesses under the DEM rules.
For example, a hauler from out of state can come into a yard to launch a boat. All commercial
haulers are permitted to operate and all public boat ramps remain open except for the ramps located in state parks.
An out-of-state boater may come into Rhode Island to take their boat out of state. Boaters also may come in from out of state to pick up a vessel they have purchased.
“The one essential mandate relates to quarantine, namely that any person coming to Rhode Island from another state for non-work-related purposes must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days, except for public health, public safety
, or healthcare workers,” said the Rhode Island Marine
Trades Association in a written statement about the DEM rules.
In the event that a vessel arrives at a marina unannounced, they must be provided with the state Department of Public Health documents given to all out-of-state travelers, and be directed to the website health.ri.gov/covid/
These measures “will allow for business operations, provide safety
measures for your staff and ensure that we are all doing as much as we can to prevent the transmission
and spread of this historic influenza,” DEM says.