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Maritime Compliance Report

Welcome. Staying in compliance takes dedication, diligence and strong leadership skills to stay on top of all the requirements which seem to keep coming at a rapid pace. With this blog I hope to provide visitors with content that will help them in their daily work of staying in compliance. I hope you find it a resource worthy of your time and I look forward to your feedback, questions, comments and concerns. Thanks for stopping by. To avoid missing critical updates, don’t forget to sign up for email alerts by using the Subscribe to blog link above.

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Hopefully you made the deadline of January 30th to submit your Nontank Vessel Response Plan (NTVRP) to the Coast Guard. According to Coast Guard Headquarters, on January 31, 2014, all old nontank vessel response plans were to be deactivated. That’s because the long awaited final rule for the nontank vessel response plan regulations was published a few months ago. The old nontank vessel response plans were drafted based upon Coast Guard guidance, which is now superseded by the regulation.


The regulation applies to any vessel operating in U.S. water that is measured 400 gross tons or more, regulatory or ITC. From there, the sub-applicabilities get a little complicated based upon capacities. Some of the additional service requirements include fire-fighting and salvage, dispersants, aerial surveillance, shoreline protection and shoreline clean-up. If applicable, evidence of signed contracts for these services must be submitted with the NTVRP.

 

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The 2008 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Vessel General Permit (2013 VGP) expires on December 19, 2013. On the same day the new EPA VGP 2013 will go into effect. The following is a summary of most of the issues vessel operators might be concerned with. However, this summary will not be comprehensive, and vessel operators should refer to the permit itself to ensure compliance.


The new 2013 EPA VGP applies to non-recreational vessels 79 feet or greater, just as the previous 2008 permit did. In order to receive coverage under the new EPA VGP vessels 300 tons or greater, or with the capacity of 8 cubic meters of ballast water, must submit a Notice of Intent. This is the same requirement that was included in the 2008 permit, but now it must be done through the EPA’s eNOI system.  Many vessels which were not required to, submitted a Notice of Intent for the 2008 permit. According to the EPA website, “It is important to understand that operators must submit an NOI for coverage under the 2013 VGP even if they had submitted an NOI for coverage under the 2008 VGP.”

 

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Recently, a few clients have asked me about training and certification of facility security officers (FSOs). So, I will try to explain the current requirements and those expected in the future.


Ten years ago the MTSA regulations were published. The Coast Guard listed the requirements for FSO, stating the FSO must have “general knowledge, through training or on the job experience in the following:” and went on to list the topics.A subsection went on to say, that in addition the FSO must “have knowledge andreceive training in the following:” and went on to list further topics. Most designated FSOs realized they needed training, and a number of training providers developed courses, delivered training, and certified that individuals had been trained.

 

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The maritime security regulations call for the use of a Declaration of Security (DOS) during certain times and situations when there a heightened security threat. The International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code takes a more general approach to the DOS than do the very specific U.S. Coast Guard regulations on the topic, which spell out which types of interfaces require a DOS at which MARSEC levels.


However, the intent of the regulations is clear in both, which is for the two interfacing parties to get together and make a deal regarding who will take responsibility for what security measures during a particular interface. This contract, which is usually limited to a single page, is signed by both parties.

 

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The Workboat Show this year was a little warmer than most, as it is usually held in December, but the “Subchapter M” buzz has certainly cooled off since last year’s show. As the years go by, with no word of when the final rule may come, many have become desensitized.


Despite the uncertainty surrounding the topic, we did fill the room for our conference session on Subchapter M. The panelist, including myself, shared our ideas on the need and methodology for training, compliance management, and preparation for the impending regulations. The session was well received and ended with spirited round of questions and answers that could have gone on for at least another thirty minutes.

 

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Don’t miss the 2013 Workboat Show. It’s not in December this year. In fact, it’s only three weeks away. The International Workboat Show will take place at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from October 9th through October 11th.


Once again, there is a big demand for information regarding Subchapter M, the proposed towing vessel inspection regulations. On Wednesday October 9th, from 1:00pm until 2:00pm, I will be participating in a panel discussion on Subchapter M. The Workboat Show website describes the session as follows:

 

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When should a checklist be required?


Have you ever wondered why a watch relief checklist is common in the industry, but a bridge transit procedure checklist is not? I’m not sure the reason is given much thought. Consultants seem to think lots of forms make their manuals more professional, managers like the idea of having everything documented, and mariners feel they are the victims of a useless paperwork onslaught. A mariner, who was sick of all the foolish paperwork he was forced to do, once wrote about making a fake ISM form for how many sugar cubes were used by individuals at the ship’s coffee mess. His point was proved when the crew did indeed; fill out the ISM sugar cube usage form.

 

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In the past, I have heard many opinions from vessel operators on what they consider a “good” Coast Guard marine inspector to be. The majority opinion has been that good inspectors apply “common sense” in enforcing regulations, or that they do not necessarily, “follow the book.” I disagree.


The truth is, enforcing prescriptive regulations has very little to do with applying common sense. Enforcing performance or management based regulations if a different story altogether, but we’ll save that for future discussions.  While some regulations may seem to be drafted without “common sense,” the authority to waive them is above an inspector’s pay grade. An inspector who is not knowledgeable of the regulations he is charged with enforcing, or is not thorough or consistent in enforcing them, is not doing anyone any favors.

 

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The level of understanding of Subchapter M runs the gamut from nonexistent to expertise. Some in the towing industry have been involved with the process for the past eight years, helping to steer the direction of the final rule. Others in the towing industry have still never heard of a TSMS or think Subchapter M is a pipe dream which will never come to fruition. So here’s a basic recap for those who may have been too busy to pay attention.

 

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Sometimes I feel like the boy who cried wolf. I study all maritime related regulations and policies and warn my clients about the severe consequences of noncompliance. All too often the bark is much worse than the bite when it comes to these things due to minimal or nonexistent enforcement.  But when they do bite, it hurts. It hurts not only from the penalty, but from a sense of injustice. Vessel owners think, “Why am I being singled out? This was never an issue before? What about the company down the road?” For whatever reason, selective enforcement is a reality that we must live with. But every regulation ignored, or complied with in a half-assed manner, is a roll of the dice. To be fair, there are many companies who choose to minimize their risk by accepting responsibility and dedicate themselves to getting it right. However, there is no denying that the “wait and see” strategy works and has worked for many years.

 

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Pressure cooker bombs! Who knew?


You did hopefully. That is, if you are a “Company, Vessel or Facility Security Officer.” The tragic events of this week’s Boston Marathon should have come as no surprise to those charged by federal regulations with having, “…general knowledge through training or on the job experience in… recognition of dangerous substances and devices.”


Ten years ago, when the Maritime Transportation Security Act regulations were published by the Coast Guard, I was hired by a training company as a subject matter expert to develop a course. It was during my research for this project that I first heard of the pressure cooker bomb. The information that I gathered at the time was that this type of improvised explosive device (IED) was very popular in Malaysia. I incorporated many kinds of IEDs into the course, including pressure cooker bombs.

 

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Many vessel operators claim that Coast Guard inspections are notoriously inconsistent. They claim such things as, “One Coast Guard guy came and told me it had to be this way, and next year another one came and told me to do something else, and the next year a third guy came back and told me to do it the way we had it in the first place.” This unfortunately is true altogether too often, especially when it comes to dealing with inexperienced inspectors or examiners.

 

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“I thought TWICs were going away?”  I have heard this many times over the past year. They are not. Many believe TWIC is a useless program. The truth is TWIC is a very important program, but few understand it.


Basically, the most important purpose of a TWIC is to not allow anyone, unescorted, into a secure area of a vessel or facility unless we know they are not a terrorist and they have a card to prove it. This may seem like nonsense to some, but if a major terrorist organization can send a terrorist spy to the U.S. and infiltrate the CIA, FBI and Army Special Warfare command, then they can surely send some to infiltrate the maritime industry. In fact, during one joint FBI/ USCG operation, a significant number of individuals “having a nexus to terrorism matters,” were found to have U.S. merchant mariner documents and they were subsequently placed on the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list. Furthermore, officials recently uncovered a major plot to attack the maritime industry because it is viewed as a soft target by terrorists.

 

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Check out this interesting article on Subchapter M alliances and software being developed:


http://www.marinelink.com/news/surfaces-chapter-finally351557.aspx
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According to news sources, Coast Guard investigators have explained that the cause of the engine room fire on the Carnival Triumph was a leaking fuel return line. There is a lesson to be learned for all vessel operators, especially towing vessel operators considering adopting a towing safety management system (TSMS) under Subchapter M.

 

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