USCG safety exams ahead for commercial fishing vessels

fishing vessel safetySEPTEMBER 11, 2012 — The Coast Guard is requiring all commercial fishing vessels that operate or fish more than three miles from the territorial sea baseline to complete a mandatory Coast Guard dockside safety exam as of October 16, 2012.

This regulatory change comes as a result of Congress' passing of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. This change affects commercial fishing fleets nationwide, and the Coast Guard is conducting outreach efforts to ensure those affected are aware of the changes with the goal of having them in compliance before the deadline.

"The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 introduces a number of new rules the Coast Guard will be enforcing," said Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard District 17 commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator. "The use of 'three miles from the territorial sea baseline' is a bit of a change from the existing regulation, which uses a complicated definition of the 'boundary line.' It will be a lot easier to understand because most nautical charts show a thin grey line that indicates where that three miles from the territorial sea baseline is located so it becomes very simple to see if you are operating seaward or shoreward of that line. If you are operating, either fishing or transiting your boat, beyond that three mile line, then the 16th of October deadline applies to you, and your fishing vessel needs to have completed a dockside safety exam."

Dockside examinations are free of charge, and currently no penalties will be issued for discrepancies. If discrepancies are found, vessel owners will be issued a worklist and given a reasonable time to correct any issues. The goal is to bring commercial fishermen into compliance while minimizing disruptions to fishing.

“There is no good reason to put off or delay the start of an exam," said Lawrenson. "Exams are free and most vessels already have the safety equipment and documentation to pass a dockside safety exam."

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