U.S. Coast Guard says foreign ships carefully vetted for coronavirus before allowed into Port of Lake Charles

Updated: Mar. 2, 2020 at 7:58 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -With Lake Charles being a port city, some wonder if it makes the area more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

But U.S. Coast Guard officials say they are checking vessels before they can come into the community.

A ship from India is at the Port’s Bulk Terminal 1, off Bayou D’Inde Road, where it’s been unloading barite, a mineral used for drilling.

But before such ships are allowed into the area, U.S. Coast Guard officials say they must approve.

Lieutenant William Hickey, at the Marine Safety Detachment in Lake Charles, says they start gathering information before the ship arrives at the Port.

"If the ship has visited a country that was affected by the coronavirus in their last five ports of call, we are requiring them to provide us more information. In the event they come back and there is a sickness on board, that’s associated with the coronavirus, the ship would not be allowed in port," said Hickey.

Hickey says communication takes place at many levels and they work with partners such as the CDC. He says if they were to determine anyone aboard the ship may have the coronavirus, the ship would be quarantined before arriving in Lake Charles.

"The ship would be directed offshore. Our quarantine area for Lake Charles is off Houston, so the ship would be directed offshore to Houston," he said.

Hickey is confident the public and Coast Guard employees are protected and that the USCG receives accurate information from those in charge of the vessels.

"We have a robust partnership with the industry, along with the CDC, and masters are required by U.S. law to notify us if there's a sickness on board," said Hickey.

He says the ships must follow the law to trade with the U.S.

Hickey says the procedures they use have been underway for several months and, so far, he knows of no vessel that had to be sent to quarantine.

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