Practice Update

As the world, the United States, and specific municipalities continue to do all they can to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, some South Florida counties have shuttered their boat ramps, launches, and marinas.

Effective as of March 21, 2020, Miami-Dade County entered Amendment No. 2 to Emergency Order 06-20 closing these services. Originally, Emergency Order 06-20 directed the closure of all parks, beaches, and recreation facilities. In the first amendment to the Order, the County specifically excluded marinas, boat launches, docking, fueling, marine supply and other marina services. However, in direct response to many continuing to congregate in blatant disregard of the directives to practice social distancing by remaining at least 6-feet apart and not gathering in groups of more than 10 people, the County issued Amendment No. 2, which is the subject of this update.

Amendment No. 2 removes the exemption of marinas, boat launches, docking, fueling, marine supply and other marina services from Emergency Order 06-20, and orders these services closed as of 11:59 p.m. on March 21, 2020. This amendment does not apply to, and therefore leaves the marinas open to licensed commercial fishermen. Marina supply and fuel stations necessary to support commercial fishing may also remain open.

In addition, Miami-Dade County issued Order 08-20, which prohibits the practice of “rafting,” where several boats or other waterway vessels are tied together or otherwise attached within five feet of each other allowing passengers to move easily from vessel to vessel. Order 08-20 excludes rafting in emergency situations where the practice is used to rescue passengers or tow an inoperable vessel. This Order also excludes boats on the Florida Intracoastal Waterway.

On March 22, 2020, Palm Beach County enacted a similar measure – COVID-19 Public Safety Order Number 1 – which, among other things, closed all boat docks, ramps, marinas, and any other venues utilized for launching any vessels. The Order did not affect the operation of commercial fishing, commercial marine operations, and support services related to commercial fishing and marine operations. An Amendment to Palm Beach County COVID-19 Public Safety Order Number 1 clarified that all venues utilized for recreational purposes, including fishing charters, boat tours, diving excursions, and the like, are closed pursuant to COVID-19 Public Safety Order Number 1, and such venues may only be utilized, if at all, for commercial fishing, commercial marine operations, and support services. The Amendment also prohibits all islands, sandbars, and intracoastal lands for public use.

Broward County, like other U.S. jurisdictions capable of offering recreational boating and marine activity, have not issued orders specifically closing boat ramps, launches, and marinas and prohibiting recreational activity. However, such jurisdictions have general safety orders aligned with President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” and any maritime activity must be undertaken in accordance with such jurisdictions’ operating orders. For example, although the Port of Everett in Washington has transitioned to “Emergency Operations” status, certain services such as port-wide security, marina fuel dock and haul out services will not be affected, and slip holders will still be able to access their boats, and the public boat launch and waterfront public spaces will stay open.

Please contact your Akerman Coronavirus Task Force for additional guidance about specific jurisdictions.

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