1/9/2017: Release of Completed Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Vessels

Written by Jack Kemerer, chief of the Fishing Vessels Division, 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 that provided clarifying information on the suspension of development of an Alternate Safety Compliance Program (ASCP), and instead, initiating the development of an Enhanced Oversight Program (EOP).

On November 4, 2016, the Coast Guard announced the release and availability of a working version 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.

Today, the Coast Guard is releasing and making available the revised and completed version of the “Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Vessels.” Subsequent to the release of the working version of the document in November 2016, the Coast Guard received feedback, comments, and recommendations from several fishing associations and other interested parties. Those responses were considered and incorporated into the revised version where recommended. This document may still be revised when warranted if additional feedback is received by the Coast Guard. This document lists safety initiatives and good marine practices as a starting point that in no way precludes fleets or organizations from modifying them into a specific safety program for their specific fleet. Those parties are encouraged to work with the Coast Guard on developing such programs. This is a living document and as a voluntary guideline will be used as a foundation to continuously develop safety initiatives and document good marine practices to benefit the safety of all U.S. commercial fishing vessels.

As previously discussed with the fishing industry at numerous events and meetings, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2012 (“the Acts”) extended classification requirements from only fish processing vessels to certain other Commercial Fishing Vessels (CFVs). Since most existing CFVs were not built to classification society rules, nor would such older vessels be accepted for classification due to their age and original non-class construction, the Acts included a provision to develop an Alternate Safety Compliance Program (ASCP) for such vessels. An ASCP was to be developed in cooperation with industry by January 1, 2017 and implemented by January 1, 2020.

The ASCP provision in the Acts would require older vessels to meet safety measures in addition to existing safety requirements found in 46 CFR Part 28, and the proposed rules published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2016. However, without existing requirements for these older vessels already in place in regulations, an alternate to the standard could not be developed. Thus, in order to require new or additional safety requirements for older vessels, a rulemaking process is required. Therefore, the Coast Guard suspended development of ASCP standards as previously socialized. Such additional safety requirements will be considered in a future rulemaking project.

Instead, using feedback and recommendations from meetings with industry on ASCP development, the Coast Guard is providing these voluntary safety initiatives and good marine practices that need to be embraced by the industry. These safety measures should be implemented on non-classed fishing vessels where possible and reasonable. Coast Guard personnel will discuss these measures with owners/operators during dockside safety examinations and at-sea boardings. The safety measures and practices contained in this document should be focused primarily toward fishing vessels 50 feet or greater in length, operating beyond three nautical miles from shore, and that are more than 25 years of age. However, these safety initiatives and good marine practices should be considered for ALL commercial fishing vessels where reasonable and practicable. We hope that all fishing vessel owners and operators will embrace these good marine practices. 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 may consider modification of some 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 may continue and 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 considered and implemented by the industry.

Note: All previous versions of a draft “ASCP” are null and void; and this completed version of Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Industry Vessels, dated January 2017, is the current 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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