Guest Column: New fishing vessel safety regulations on the way

First published in Landings, April, 2015.

There have been a lot of new safety rules promulgated by the U.S. Coast Guard in recent years. Beginning on January 1, 2010, vessel construction standards came into effect. These new standards are for commercial fishing vessels less than 50 feet in length operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the United States territorial seas. These vessels must be built in a manner that provides a level of safety equivalent to the standards for recreational vessels. Those standards are found in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR)

Parts 181 and 183 and deal with:

Identification of boats’ hull identification numbers (HIN).
Capacity plates, safe loading, safe powering, positive flotation for vessels less than 20 feet in length.
Electrical systems, fuel systems, and ventilation system requirements for boats using gasoline powered engines.
Navigation lights.
Start-in-gear protection for outboard powered boats.

Then on July 1, 2013, additional vessel construction standards came into effect. These new standards require that:

All commercial fishing vessels 50 or more feet in length and operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the United States territorial seas must be classified by a recognized Classification Society.

All commercial fishing vessels 79 or more feet in length and operating beyond the boundary line must be assigned a Loadline. Loadlines are assigned by recognized Classification Societies.

Jump to this year. This fall mandatory dockside examinations for all commercial fishing vessels operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the United States territorial seas take effect as of October 15. Those vessels operating with a current and valid commercial fishing vessel safety decal will meet the requirements of having satisfactorily completed the mandatory dockside examination. Vessel owners can avoid the rush by scheduling the dockside examination now.

As of February 16, 2016, commercial vessels will be required to carry survival craft capable of keeping the user out of the water. Buoyant apparatus and life floats do not meet this requirement. Those vessels required to carry survival craft will be required to carry an inflatable buoyant apparatus, a life raft or a life boat depending upon the vessel’s area of operation. At this time we do not know who will be required to carry what for survival craft. When we know we will advise you.

By March 1, 2016, commercial fishing vessels 65 or more feet in length will be required to carry Automated Identification Systems (AIS). Commercial fishing vessels may install a Class B AIS device versus a Class A device if the vessel operates at a speed of less than 14 knots.
Keep in mind that the effective date of the new safety regulations required by The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 is unknown at this time. The new regulations will treat Federally Documented and State Registered vessels the same. All commercial fishing vessels will need to meet these additional safety requirements if they operate beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the United States territorial seas.

If you have questions or would like to schedule a free dockside safety examination for your vessel please contact me at 207-780-3256 office, 207-899-6278 cell, or at Kevin.f.plowman@uscg.mil.