July 14, 2004

Coast Guard extends policy to resolve conflicts with SOLAS

The U.S. Coast Guard has published a notice in today's Federal Register announcing that it is extending its policy for resolving conflicts between its own regulations on navigation equipment on ships and the recent amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, (SOLAS). The amendments to SOLAS entered into force on July 1, 2002. Until the Coast Guard aligns its regulations with these amendments, this policy should benefit ship owners and operators by relieving them of the need to meet existing Coast Guard regulations that are incompatible with or duplicitous of the new SOLAS requirements.

Since publishing its initial policy statement on August 15, 2002 (67 FR 53382), the Coast Guard has implemented some SOLAS V amendment regulations. As part of its maritime security regulations, for example, it published an automatic identification system vessel carriage requirement final rule (68 FR 60559, October 22, 2003). But until the Coast Guard aligns all its regulations with the amendments to SOLAS chapter V, the following policy applies:

For ships to which this policy applies, when an amendment to chapter V and a provision in Coast Guard regulations address the same navigational safety concern and when applying both would result in an unnecessary duplication, the Coast Guard will accept the provision under chapter V as meeting the corresponding Coast Guard regulation.

In other words, says the notice in the Federal Register, if a ship has an approved ECDIS installed according to chapter V, the ECDIS will be considered by the Coast Guard as meeting its nautical chart regulation in 33 CFR 164.33(a)(1), because the ECDIS meets the same navigational safety concerns as do paper nautical charts.

This policy benefits the ship owner and operator by relieving them of the need to unnecessarily duplicate equipment.

Under SOLAS, chapter I, regulation 12, the Coast Guard will not issue SOLAS certificates to U.S.-flag ships that are not in full compliance with the applicable requirements of the new SOLAS, chapter V.

The Coast Guard will continue to exercise port state control authority under SOLAS, chapter I, regulation 19, for foreign-flag ships that are not in compliance with the applicable requirements of SOLAS, chapter V.

Also, U.S. flag vessels on international voyages, as defined in SOLAS, should be aware that foreign countries may exercise port state control authority under SOLAS, for ships of 150 or more gross tonnage (that is, tonnage as defined under the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969) that are not in compliance with the applicable requirements of SOLAS, chapter V.

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