Many commercial fishing vessels harvesting in Alaska are already in compliance with new safety and equipment requirements effective in 2015 and 2016, and the US Coast Guard has a busy schedule ahead to help them meet those deadlines.
Those regulations, contained in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012, include mandatory dockside safety exams for vessels operating beyond three nautical miles of the baseline of the US territorial sea or the coastline of the Great Lakes, operating anywhere with more than 16 individuals on board, inside or outside of that baseline, and tenders engaged in the Aleutian trade.
Other new requirements relate to survival craft, standards for design, construction and maintenance of new vessels, safety equipment for vessels less than 50 feet overall in length, assignment of load lines, and alternate safety programs.
In December 2014, the Coast Guard outlined in a two page document the specifics of these new requirements, to give fair warning to all those engaged in commercial fishing.
Scott Wilwert, the fishing vessel safety coordinator for Coast Guard District 17 in Juneau, says that many vessels in Alaska are already in compliance because they have traditionally been voluntary participants in the dockside examination program. “Well more than half are good to go as we speak,” Wilwert said in an interview in early May.
Vessel owners are encouraged to fill out the checklist generator online at www.fishsafe.info in preparation for dockside exams.
Successful completion of those dockside exams earns the vessel a decal required for safety reasons for all vessels taking onboard fisheries observers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Passing that exam is also a requirement of some insurance pools and some vessel owner associations, Wilwert said.
The new regulations also include a requirement, effective Feb. 16, 2016, to carry a survival craft to keep those on board out of the water in the event of an abandon ship need.
All vessels built after July 1, 2013 must be designed, constructed and maintained to the standards of a recognized classification society. Vessels classed before July 1, 2012 will remain subject to the requirements of a classification society and have on board a certificate from that society.
Vessels less than 50 feet overall in length, built after Jan. 1, 2010, are also required under the new regulations to be constructed to provide a level of safety equivalent to the minimum safety standards established for recreational vessels.