1/26/2015: After-action from public meeting for seafarers’ access to maritime facilities

Friday, the Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance hosted a public meeting called ‘Seafarers’ Access to Maritime Facilities ’ to present a brief overview of proposed regulations and provide the opportunity for the public to provide specific feedback on the proposed rule. Maritime Commons is providing you with condensed remarks from the information presented….

“Following the events of September 11, 2001, and the implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, security systems were put into place that created some unintended consequences,” said Capt. Andrew Tucci, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance. “This proposed regulation is intended to promote human dignity for seafarers while maintaining the security of our ports and facilities.”

Remarks delivered by Cmdr. Jeffrey Morgan, cargo and facilities division chief

Stakeholder participation and commentary are extremely important to the federal rulemaking process. Your questions, comments and concerns enable the Coast Guard to make the best regulation possible for all stakeholders. All comments received will be answered on the docket in the final rule making process.

Throughout the maritime sector, vessels arrive at Maritime Transportation Security Act, or MTSA, regulated facilities for commercial or other purposes. Vessels are operated by seafarers who may have been at sea for days, weeks or months as part of their employment on that vessel. Generally, transiting through a MTSA regulated facility is the only way for the seafarers to access the shore and the other things beyond the facility gate such as businesses, services and family members.

Additionally, individuals providing services for seafarers, or having other legitimate purposes for accessing the vessel, generally, may only access a vessel moored at an MTSA regulated facility by transiting through that facility. The regulatory action that is necessary to implement Section 811 (Seamen’s shoreside access) of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 requires MTSA regulated facilities to provide access in a timely manner. However, due to the complexity, size, the range and variety of facility types and the nature of operations this presents unique challenges.

This rulemaking does not propose a single regulatory definition of timely access that would require all facilities to implement in the same way. Instead, the Coast Guard proposed a rule that would require each facility owner or operator to provide access, without unreasonable delay, subject to review by the captain of the port.

In the proposed regulation, the captain of the port would review each facility security plan to ensure that facility owner or operator has appropriately considered certain factors. These factors, in the proposed language, relate to the amount of time that is reasonable for individuals to wait for access through the facility and the methods that the facility owner/operator would use in providing that access.

These factors may include the length of time the vessel needs to be in port, distances between the vessel and the facility gate, vessel watch schedules and other facility safety and security procedures required by law such as those in MTSA.

Defining timely access, without unreasonable delay, through the application of these factors, would provide flexibility to account for a diverse range of the regulated population of maritime facilities. This approach would also provide appropriate captain of the port oversight to verify that timeliness is reasonable in each case.

Facility owners and operators must provide access to:

• Seafarers assigned to a vessel moored at a facility
• Pilots and other authorized personnel performing work for a vessel moored at the facility
• Representatives or seafarers’ welfare and labor organizations
• Other authorized individuals in accordance with the Declaration of Security or other arrangement between the vessel and facility

The terms ‘other authorized personnel’ and ‘other authorized individuals’ are intended to be broad categories in order to provide flexibility that enables the vessel and facility operators to work directly with each other regarding the authorized personnel or individuals to transit between the facility gate and the vessel. These may include port worker organizations, port engineers or superintendents, class society surveyors, ships agents and other authorized personnel performing work for a vessel or facility, cargo surveyors and family members.

Current Coast Guard regulations, under MTSA, as well as those proposed by this rule, require facilities to ensure coordination of shore leave for these persons. Additionally, current MTSA access control regulations also require the regulated facilities to control an individual’s access to that facility. Facility owners and operators must consider security implications of permitting seafarers and other individuals transit through their facility.

The proposed rule provides facilities the flexibility to implement a system to provide seafarers a means of access that is tailored to their facility. In order to provide timely access to facility owners and operators who choose their own method of providing that access. They can choose a method listed in the proposed regulation, or they could choose any other method provided that is approved by the captain of the port.

The proposed rule lists six methods of providing or implementing a system of access:

• Regularly scheduled or on-call escort between vessel and facility gate that conforms to the vessel’s watch schedule that’s agreed upon by the vessel and facility;
• Arrangements with taxi services or other seafarers’ welfare organizations to facilitate the access
• Monitored pedestrian access routes between the vessel and facility gate
• Other methods approved by the captain of the port
• Must have backup system if primary means of compliance is not available

If a MTSA regulated facility provides a method of access that uses a third party, such as a taxi service or seafarers’ welfare organization, they must also have a backup method, approved by the captain of the port, so as to ensure that access is provided in a timely manner should those services be unavailable.

Implementation requirements:

• Within 10 months of the publication date of the final rule, each facility must have submitted a facility security plan that is updated with the system proposed for providing access to the seafarers and other individuals for approval by the captain of the port;
• Within one year, of the publication date of the final rule, facilities must be implementing that system.

Capt. Andrew Tucci, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance, offered concluding remarks.

The whole point of our regulatory process is to be transparent. It’s important to point out that Coast Guard security regulations don’t exist just to serve themselves, they exist to preserve our prosperity and the freedom that makes our nation great. This particular regulation is very much focused on human dignity for seafarers in the United States and for foreign seafarers who come to our ports.

We are trying very hard to preserve freedom and human dignity for seafarers while, of course, keeping our nation safe and secure. I very much appreciate your comments that help us to strengthen this regulation and achieve that goal of keeping our freedoms, preserve human dignity and meet the intent of the law.

Submit comments to the docket for consideration into the final rule making.

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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