Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oct. 16 Deadline Looms For Commercial Vessel Dockside Exams

Dockside safety exams for most commercial fishing vessels become mandatory in October and the US Coast Guard will be working through next spring to have all boats ready for next summer’s salmon fisheries.

Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard District 17 commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator, has been advising fishermen for the past two years about the approaching Oct. 16 deadline for all commercial fishing vessels that operate or fish more than three miles from the territorial sea baseline to get those mandatory dockside safety exams done.

“Exams are free and most vessels already have the safety equipment and documentation to pass a dockside safety exam,” he said.

To date 30 percent to 40 percent of some 3,200 vessels required to have these exams have done so and received their decals.

“The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 introduces a number of new rules the Coast Guard will be enforcing,” Lawrenson said.

“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.”

For fishermen living near a Marine Safety Detachment, the manpower to conduct these exams in readily available.

The problem will be for smaller fleets in remote geographic areas, such as Adak, St. Paul Island, Kuskokwim Bay, Norton Sound and St. Lawrence Island. Coast Guard officials plan to work into the spring to help bring these areas into compliance.

A letter from the Coast Guard to the commercial fishing industry explaining the dockside safety exam requirements is at

In Alaska, fishermen may contact the nearest Coast Guard Sector or Marine Safety Detachment to schedule an exam.

The contact phone numbers are: Ketchikan, 1-907-225-4496; Sitka, 1-907-966-5454; Juneau, 1-907-463-2448; Valdez, 1-907-835-7223; Homer, 1-907-235-3292; Kodiak, 1-907-486-5918; Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, 1-907-581-3466; and Anchorage, 1-907-271-6700.
For further information contact Lawrenson at his office at 1-907-463-2810, by cell phone at 1-907-32104110 or email at

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