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Guest Column: Safety changes coming for federal waters

  1.  The carriage requirements for primary lifesaving equipment will change. After January 1, 2015, life floats and buoyant apparatus will no longer be accepted for commercial fishing vessels operating beyond three nautical miles. When these vessels are required to carry primary lifesaving equipment, either an inflatable buoyant apparatus or a life raft will be required to be carried, depending on how far offshore they operate. With the limited number of authorized life raft servicing facilities here in Maine and New Hampshire, scheduling and servicing of your life raft/inflatable buoyant apparatus will need to be closely coordinated with the servicing facilities.

  2. All commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the three nautical mile line will be required to:

  3. carry a marine radio

  4. carry sufficient medical supplies for the size of the vessel and the area of operation

  5. carry adequate ground tackle (anchor).

  6. The operator of a commercial fishing vessel operating beyond the three nautical mile line will be required to:

  7.  maintain a record of emergency equipment maintenance and a log book of the required drills and safety instructions

  8. complete a training program and possess a valid certificate issued under the program. The training program will include seamanship, stability, collision prevention, navigation, fire fighting and prevention, damage control, personal survival, emergency medical care, emergency drills, and weather. Credit can be given for recent experience in fishing vessel operations. An individual will be required to complete a refresher course every five years.

  9. All commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the three nautical mile line will be required to complete a dockside examination every two years and possess a valid Certificate of Compliance.

  10. Commercial fishing vessels 50 feet or more in length built after July 1, 2012 operating beyond the three nautical mile line will be required to meet classification society survey and classification requirements.

  11. Commercial fishing vessels 79 feet or more in length built after July 1, 2012 will be required to meet Load Line requirements.

  12. The Act also establishes a Fishing Safety Training Grants Program and a Fishing Safety Research Grants Program. When do these new requirements come into effect? Some requirements set forth in the Act have established dates by which they are required to be met, such as primary lifesaving equipment carriage, Load Line, and construction standards requirements. Other provisions will not take effect until regulations are developed to implement the requirements. The Coast Guard is working to complete this rulemaking, but the process takes time and includes public notice, time to receive comments, and time to implement the new regulations. The Final Rule will state when specific requirements will take effect and could provide for phase-in periods for fishing vessel owners/operators to bring their vessels into compliance with the new regulations. In conclusion; new regulations are coming. Stay informed and work with your industry groups to help steer the course of these changes. And as always call your commercial fishing vessel safety examiner Kevin Plowman at 207-780-3256 or 207-899-6278 or email at kevin.f.plowman@uscg.mil with any questions or to schedule your free dockside examination.

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