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U.S. Coast Guard Revises Marine Safety Manual, Volume III, Marine Industry Personnel

In July 2017, the Coast Guard released its changes to the Marine Safety Manual (MSM), Volume III, governing Marine Industry Personnel. Volume III of the Manual addresses the laws and regulations governing marine industry personnel and provides policies and procedures for administering those rules. Therefore, the Coast Guard’s changes to the MSM can significantly affect marine personnel management.

Volume III of the MSM is broken into three sections: Mariner Credentialing, Vessel Manning, and Shipment and Service. The vast majority of changes were in the Vessel Manning section. There were no changes to Mariner Credentialing and minimal changes to the Shipment and Service section. The Coast Guard released a 37-page matrix that shows changes and public comment regarding the MSM, which is available here. Some of the changes are highlighted below.

First, the Coast Guard has included a new discussion on state manning requirements in the MSM. Specifically, the Coast Guard notes that states, “generally cannot regulate vessel personnel qualification or manning requirements,” except for pilotage requirements in the bays, rivers, harbors, and ports of the U.S. The Coast Guard’s guidance is to contact the Coast Guard District legal office regarding questions of state regulation.

Second, the Coast Guard added guidance regarding seamen on U.S. documented vessels. Among those additions are that nonresident alien crew members holding Coast Guard-issued MMCs on U.S. flag large passenger vessels must be provided the rights, benefits, and protections of the International Maritime Organization pursuant to 46 CFR 15.530. The Coast Guard also advised that when there is a question about whether an individual is properly documented, “the Coast Guard officer should consult with local officials of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).” Additionally, the Coast Guard added that “owners or operators should obtain evidence that aliens who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence are authorized for employment under the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

Third, the Coast Guard added a requirement regarding Towing Vessels Inspected under Subchapter M. It stated that in order to serve as a master of towing vessels on the Western Rivers, a person must have had 90 days of observation and training and have a Western River endorsement.

Fourth, the Coast Guard clarified that the U.S. manning laws and regulations do not require a vessel to have someone specifically designated as a person responsible for medical care. However, “if by practice, company policy or to meet Maritime Labour Convention requirements,” someone aboard the seagoing ship is designated as being responsible for medical care, that individual must meet the competency standards of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

Fifth, the Coast Guard clarified that generally watch systems or minimum number of credentialed officers are not required on documented recreational vessels and fishing vessels, except for specific fishing vessels in the Aleutian trade.

As mentioned above, the latest changes to the MSM have the greatest impact on vessel manning requirements. The fully revised Marine Safety Manual, Volume III can be found here.


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