11/4/2016: Release of Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Vessels

Written by Jack Kemerer, Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance

On July 20, 2016, Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) posted a notice about the Marine Safety Information Bulletin 11-16 to provide clarifying information on stopping the development of an Alternate Safety Compliance Program (ASCP), and instead, starting the development of an Enhanced Oversight Program (EOP).

Today, the Coast Guard is announcing the release and availability of the “Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Vessels.” These good marine practices for older fishing vessels replace the ASCP and EOP voluntary safety guidelines.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2012 (“the Acts”) extended the requirement for the classification of fishing vessels from fish processing vessels, to a wider range of Commercial Fishing Vessels (CFVs). Understanding that most existing fishing vessels were not built to classification society rules, the Acts included provisions for the development of an Alternate Safety Compliance Program (ASCP) for such vessels. As defined in the Acts, fishing vessels to which Title 46, United States Code, Section 4502(b) applies, were to comply with an ASCP after January 1, 2020, and its guidelines were to be developed in cooperation with the commercial fishing industry, and prescribed by the Coast Guard by January 1, 2017.

In addition to the requirements of 46 CFR Part 28, and proposed rules published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2016, the ASCP requirement in the Acts would mean that older vessels would be required to meet additional safety measures due to their higher risk. The Coast Guard determined, after discussion with industry and Congress, that even though the Acts required new guidelines for these older vessels, they could not be enforced without the development of new regulations, so the development of ASCP was stopped until those regulations could be developed.

Until such regulations can be developed the Coast Guard will work with the older fleet to to address certain risks. With the input of the Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee (CFSAC) and other members of the fishing industry, the Coast Guard developed “Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices”. These were based on an analysis of fishing vessel disasters and crewmember fatalities conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that clearly identified common hazards across all fleets in the U.S. fishing industry.

We hope that all fishing vessels embrace these good marine practices where possible and reasonable. Coast Guard personnel will discuss these measures with owners/operators during dockside safety examinations and at-sea boardings and inquire if any have been implemented on the vessel.

Although the Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices were developed as baseline practices for all vessels to adopt, individual fleets can request modification of these measures as some of the practices may not necessarily apply in all types of fisheries and operating situations. Fishing organizations representing specific fleets are encouraged to work with the Coast Guard’s District Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinators for their region to determine the measures in the good marine practices that may, or may not, be applicable to their fleet. A fleet-specific safety initiative with good marine practices may also be considered in the future, if found beneficial.

The commercial fishing industry is encouraged to provide feedback through their local Coast Guard dockside fishing vessel examiner or District Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinators. The Coast Guard appreciates the engagement and participation of industry in this process, and looks forward to continued collaboration as these safety initiatives and good marine practices are refined in order to finalize them by January 2017.

Note: All previous versions of a draft “ASCP” null and void; and this version of Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Industry Vessels, dated October 25, 2016, is the current working draft version that should be referenced when providing comments, feedback, or recommendations to the Coast Guard.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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