BrownWater News, March 2015

Coast Guard suspends automated credential responses

The National Maritime Center has advised the industry that because of new security protocols, the use of automated email responses regarding the receipt of Merchant Mariner Credential applications has been temporarily suspended. Mariners will no longer receive the previous automatic response “application has been received at REC,” the center said.

Mariners who provide viable email addresses with their submission will begin to receive application status updates once their applications are acknowledged and entered into the NMC database, Coast Guard Capt. Jeffrey P. Novotny said.

“As we continue to look into alternative solutions impacting these new protocols, please do not submit your application multiple times to the same or different Regional Examination Centers (REC),” Novotny said. “Multiple submissions may cause confusion, overload the system and/or slow down the application process.”

Questions or feedback should be directed to the Customer Service Center at or (888) 427-5662.

Minimum random drug-testing rate set at 25 percent for 2015

The Coast Guard has set the calendar year 2015 minimum random drug-testing rate at 25 percent of covered crewmembers. The rate became effective Jan. 1 and will remain in effect through Dec. 31.

Marine employers had to submit their 2014 Management Information System (MIS) reports no later than March 12, 2015.

The Coast Guard requires marine employers to establish random drug-testing programs for crewmembers on inspected and uninspected vessels. Every marine employer is required to collect and maintain a record of drug-testing program data for each calendar year and submit that data by March 15 of the following year to the Coast Guard in an annual MIS report.

For more information, contact Patrick Mannion at (202) 372-1033.

More comments allowed on maritime cybersecurity

The Coast Guard has extended by two months the comment period set for a notice titled “Guidance on Maritime Cybersecurity Standards.”

The comment period was extended from Feb. 17 to April 15. The Coast Guard said that several industry participants at a public meeting hosted by the Coast Guard on Jan. 15 asked for more time to respond to the notice announced in December. In the notice, the Coast Guard said it was developing policy to help vessel and facility operators identify and address cyber-related vulnerabilities that could contribute to a transportation security incident.

“We encourage all interested members of the public to send comments in response to the notice,” the Coast Guard said.

For more information, contact Lt. Josephine Long at (202) 372-1106.

Coast Guard eyes unmanned aircraft for marine responders

The Coast Guard is taking a look at unmanned aircraft systems for possible use by maritime first responders.

The Coast Guard said it intends to enter into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with several companies to evaluate small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) and their airborne sensors, to determine their potential for use in a maritime environment by a first responder and Department of Homeland Security operational components.

The Coast Guard will test and evaluate SUAS under a wide variety of simulated but realistic and relevant real-world maritime operational scenarios, such as law enforcement, search and rescue, and maritime environmental response.

The Coast Guard is considering partnering with Aerovel Corp., Aurora Flight Sciences, Lockheed Martin Corp., and Mission Technology Systems because each has demonstrated the ability to operate SUAS in a maritime environment. At the same time, the Coast Guard is soliciting public comment on the possible participation of other parties in the proposed agreement, and the nature of that participation.

Comments must be submitted by March 23. They should provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation.

For more information, contact Andrew Niccolai at (860) 271-2670.

Bill would require new Waters of the U.S. rule

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has introduced the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 594), which prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineering from promulgating the final Waters of the United States rule under the Clean Water Act.

The measure would require the EPA and the Corps to consult with state and local governments to develop a new proposed rule that would then be submitted to Congress for approval.

Coast Guard seeking comments on medical waivers

The Coast Guard is seeking comment on its proposed policy clarification regarding medical documentation the service will consider in determining whether a medical waiver is warranted for merchant mariners with cardiomyopathy, diabetes mellitus or obstructive sleep apnea.

Furthermore, the Coast Guard said the clarification specifies that narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia and other hypersomnia of central origin are medically disqualifying and generally not waiverable due to significant risk of sudden and unpredictable incapacitation of individuals who have those conditions.

The law specifies medical standards that merchant mariners must meet prior to being issued a Merchant Mariner Credential. In cases where a mariner does not meet those medical standards, waivers may be granted when the Coast Guard determines that extenuating circumstances warrant special consideration.

Comments must reach the Coast Guard by May 15. For more information, contact Lt. Ashley Holm at (202) 372-2357.

FY 2016 budget continues USCG ‘sound stewardship’

Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, assured Congress on Feb. 25 that the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget “continues the sound stewardship of fiscal resources to invest in the 21st century Coast Guard.”

“We remain an adaptable force, firmly committed to prioritizing operations and resources to maximize service to the nation,” Zukunft said at a budget hearing held by the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

President Obama has requested nearly $10 billion for the Coast Guard in FY 2016, 4 percent less than the service received for fiscal 2015.

Next year, the commandant said, the proposed budget will bring “special focus” to four maritime concerns, including enhancing internal IT security and promoting cybersecurity within ports.

Elaborating on the Coast Guard’s role in safeguarding the country’s commerce, Zukunft said there has been a “significant” increase in barge transits of oil and natural gas on the Mississippi River in the past five years.

“Changes in U.S. energy production have increased the traffic levels at some of our ports,” he said. “Larger tanker vessels, greater complexity of port operations and expanded movement of energy and hazardous materials increase the overall risk of an incident that could have severe environmental consequences. To keep pace with the maritime industry we regulate, the Coast Guard will continue ongoing initiatives to improve our marine safety work force, and support innovative technologies to improve waterways management and the aids to navigation system.

“I will take decisive action to alleviate the strain of an austere budget environment and will make tough decisions in the face of our increasing demands.”

Zukunft said that recapitalizing the medium endurance fleet with the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) “is my No. 1 investment priority.” The commandant said his investment strategy “can be summarized in four words: affordable, offshore, patrol, cutter.” He said the OPC will be “the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence” and that it is “a key element of our Western Hemisphere strategy.”

Maritime Administrator Paul N. Jaenichen testified on the Maritime Administration’s proposed $406.8 million budget for FY 2016. He said that one highlight of his budget request “is an increase for our mariner training programs to ensure that we can continue to produce highly skilled U.S. Coast Guard credentialed officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine to support America’s defense and national security needs.”

MarAd begins certifying cruise vessel training providers

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has begun certifying cruise vessel security and safety training program providers. As part of the voluntary certification, MarAd will review training plans and supporting information for consistency with training standards established under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

MarAd said it would issue certifications effective for five years to successful training provider applicants, and will list certified training organizations on its website.

For more information, contact Kim Strong at (202) 366-5807.

Coast Guard adjusting pilotage rates on Great Lakes

The Coast Guard said at the end of February that it was adjusting rates for pilotage services on the Great Lakes. The adjustments establish new base rates in accordance with a full ratemaking procedure.

The proposed rates would maintain parity with the Canadian Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said it also was implementing temporary surcharges to accelerate recoupment of necessary and reasonable training and investment costs for the pilot associations.

The final rule will become effective Aug. 1.

Details of the 2015 annual review and rate adjustment are in the Feb. 26 issue of the Federal Register.

For more information, contact Todd Haviland at (202) 372-2037.

By Professional Mariner Staff