NMSAC Makes Recommendations on Seafarer Shore Access

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) met by teleconference this morning (May 20th) to finalize a Resolution on Seafarer Shore Access. The Resolution was adopted unanimously, after two amendments.
One of the maritime transportation security provisions of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, section 811, requires “[e]ach facility security plan approved under section 70103(c) of title 46, United States Code, shall provide a system for seamen assigned to a vessel at that facility, pilots, and representatives of seamen’s welfare and labor organizations to board and depart the vessel through the facility in a timely manner at no cost to the individual.” As previously reported, the Coast Guard found three concepts in section 811 particularly vexing—”system,” “in a timely manner,” and “at no cost to the individual”—and requested NMSAC to assist with recommended definitions/clarifications of the three concepts and to provide industry input for the Coast Guard’s regulatory effort. The NMSAC resolution reflects that the Committee established a working group consisting of representatives of maritime labor, facility and vessel owners/operators, and seafarer welfare organizations. This working group met on March 22nd and May 3rd, producing a Draft resolution that led to this NMSAC teleconference meeting.
As amended during the meeting and then unanimously adopted, the Resolution contains two operative paragraphs. The first resolves “That the following definitions should be used by the Coast Guard during any policy or rulemaking decision regarding the implementation of Section 811 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. The second resolves “That DHS share with NMSAC the language of any proposed new regulations on seafarer access, in order for NMSAC to give any last minute inputs’.” The recommended definitions are:
SYSTEM: A set of plans and procedures as identified in the ISPS Code. When resolving the most difficult cases, dialogue between the COTP and the pertinent parties (e.g., port facilities, seafarer representatives, vendors, etc.) should take place.
TIMELINESS: All authorized persons wishing entry into or out of a Terminal/Facility shall make best endeavors to provide the required identification and notification as far in advance as possible. The Terminal/Facility shall in turn make best endeavors to process that information and facilitate access into and out of the Terminal/Facility as quickly as possible within the guidance of their FSP and without undue delay to the authorized person wishing access. All parties shall keep in mind the short turn-around time of the vessels, the dynamic nature of the business, and the security requirements of the Terminal/Facility
NO COST TO THE INDIVIDUAL: Procedures for access for seamen assigned to a vessel at that facility, pilots, and representatives of seamen’s welfare and labor organizations transiting through a port facility will be provided at no cost to the individual.
There were substantive comments from both NMSAC members and members of the public (including written submission) concerning the three “definitions,” which, in my opinion, are more in the nature of “clarifications” (but then I wasn’t in the arena and didn’t have to come up with anything). A Coast Guard representative stressed that the Service was appreciative of NMSAC’s work and was anxious to get a rulemaking underway. Most of the other comments went to the timeliness issue, although there were suggestions that the legislative history of the “no cost” provision made it clear that Congress meant to absolve only individuals from bearing any cost; it would be perfectly permissible for a facility to charge vessels calling there for escorting and transportation expenses.
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By Professional Mariner Staff