Fined for using unlicensed foreign officers on U.S.-flag vessels

Purse seiner Sea Bounty Purse seiner Sea Bounty

MARCH 19, 2014 — Coast Guard Sector Guam has levied fines against the South Pacific Tuna Corporation for eight separate violations of Title 46 United States Code, Section 8304 for using unlicensed foreign personnel to illegally fill the roles of chief mate and chief engineer on U.S. flagged vessels.

While conducting dockside vessel safety examinations in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia in March 2012 , personnel from Sector Guam determined that the violations had taken place on five of the company's 14 purse seine vessels while conducting dockside vessel safety examinations in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. The safety examinations are required by specific legislation for the U.S. flagged Distant Water Tuna Fleet.

The legislation allows U.S. flagged purse seine vessels operating under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty to fill the positions of chief mate and chief engineer with properly licensed foreign officers. However the Coast Guard found that South Pacific Tuna Corporation's vessels Ocean Conquest, Ocean Warrior, Sea Bounty, Sea Honor and Sea Quest had illegally used foreign personnel who did not possess the proper licenses.

The Coast Guard has recently published new policy guidance regarding manning and licensing requirements for the fleet that can be found here: Distant Water Tuna Fleet vessels manning exemption guidance

"The Coast Guard is committed to ensuring that the manning laws of the United States are followed," said Capt. Casey White, commander for Sector Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. "The chief mate and chief engineer are safety critical positions and must be filled by properly licensed personnel."

The Coast Guard considers the Distant Water Tuna Fleet to be a high risk fleet. Between 2006 and 2014, there have been 19 fatalities on this type of vessel, giving it one of the highest fatality rates of any U.S. fishing fleet in the nation. All of the fatalities occurred while the vessels were operating within the Fourteenth Coast Guard District's Area of Responsibility spanning 23.1 million square miles.

There are 40 tuna purse seine vessels within the U.S. flagged Distant Water Tuna Fleet. The South Pacific Tuna Corporation significantly recapitalized this fleet between 2003 and 2008, adding 14 Taiwanese-built purse seine vessels. These vessels are approximately 210 feet in length and typically have 30-35 people on board.

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