US Coast Guard Reauthorization Act

The House and Senate is working on legislation for the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2007.  In the house version (H.R. 2830) there are several sections that will affect commerical fishermen in Alaska.  Section 307 affects the Fishing Vessel Safety Act.  Changes in this section include:

Deleting references to the “boundary line” and replacing it with 3 nautical miles from the baseline from which the territorial seas is measured.

Safety standards that will require mandatory dockside vessel examinations two out of every five years.  During this dockside examination the language includes a clause that allows enforcement for any other applicable federal laws and regulations.

Requirement mandatory training.  The training program shall be based on professional knowledge and skill obtained through sea service and hands on training, including training in seamanship, stability, collision prevention, navigation, fire fighting and prevention, damage control, personal survival, emergency medical care and weather along with require an individual to demonstrate ability to communicate in an emergency situation and understand information found in navigation publications.

Reference to lifeboats, liferafts and buoyant apparatus are deleted and instead requires survival craft that ensures that no part of an individual is immersed in water sufficient to accomodate all individuals on board.

The exemption from survival craft regulation for vessels under 36 ft in length in inside boundary waters is deleted and these vessel (even the 14ft skiffs) would have to have survival craft onboard as described above.

And the most ALARMING section is where they will require all vessels to be classed by American Bureau of Shipping or another similarily qualified organization (Det Norske Veritas Classification (Americas) Inc.).  Classification is a complicated and expensive process that is usually reserved for vessels over 79 feet in length.  Generally a boat is classified originally as it is being built and the example given to me is 5% of the building cost of the vessel but smaller boat would likely be a higher percentage of the building cost.  The classification must be reviewed every year and this runs in the thousands of dollars.  Vessels built after January 1, 2008 or undergoes a major conversion and is 50 feet in length must be classified immediately.  After January 1, 2018 this applies to all fishing vessels and fish tender vessels that were built before January 1, 2008 and is 25 years or older.  I was told by the one company that it is extremely difficult to classify an older vessel and it is possible that in 2018 most of the commercial fishing vessel will likely be unable to be classified and therefore unable to participate in the fisheries if this section passes.   

Any vessel built after January 1st, 2008 or undergone a major conversion will have to have a load line certificate.

The legislation also has a section regarding ballast water.  It is very possible that our fish holds may be considered ballast tanks and will fall under this regulation.  For example the seine boats that tank down for stability reasons would meet the definition.

The senate version has none of the above section contained in it.  The senate version does have a couple of sections that affect commercial fishermen in Alaska that we approve of.  Maintains the Loran system, provides a small vessel exemption to allow salmon filleting onboard and a section that prohibits maritime liens against fishing permits.

SEAFA’s comments on this draft legislation that was just sent to Conressional delegation staff members and the transportation staff member. 

 SEAFA Comments cg-reauthorization-act-comments-91907.doc

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Assoc. comments ALFA comments

 

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