Is it correct to say that historical fiction can not occur in the present?
Yes (but see notes below)
To be historical fiction the story must take place in history; that is it must take place prior to now.
The story might involve things that happened after some major historical event but should not involve the present.
For the example you presented in the comments:
The action would be current (or almost current since it is now 2017) and therefore would not be historical fiction.
As an alternative, a story about people searching for clues about the sinking in the years immediately following the actual sinking could be considered historical fiction.