Second Chance to Comment on USCG’s Proposed STCW Regulations

If you weren’t able to comment before the September 30 deadline on the US Coast Guard’s Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) on implementing STCW Convention and Code amendments and changes to domestic merchant marine endorsements, you have a second chance. Ditto if you’d like to repeat or expand on comments you did make. The Coast Guard has requested public comments on recommendations on the SNPRM made by the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC) and the Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee (MMMAC).
The Coast Guard had tasked both advisory committees with reviewing the SNPRM. MMMAC’s recommendations take up 1½ pages and propose some terminology changes and language modifications, as well as altering requirements applicable to harbor pilots and clarification of provisions affecting food handlers. MERPAC’s recommendations run about 20 pages and cover numerous definitional issues, matters regarding documentation and payment, the link between Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMCs) and medical review issues, sea service credit, training course approval and administration, highly specific proposals for various endorsements, and required training elements and competencies for various endorsements.
So, if either committee has made a recommendation you agree with, chime in and support it. If you feel any recommendation is off base, inform the Coast Guard of your opposition to it. But what if your issue isn’t addressed in the recommendations? Submit a comment that the recommendations are inadequate because they fail to deal with that issue and explain why it’s an issue. Comments may be submitted on line, or by FAX, mail, or hand delivered, as explained in the Coast Guard’s Notice. The deadline is December 5th.
As far as maritime transportation security is concerned, MERPAC correctly identified the problems with the SNPRM’s proposed definition of “vessel personnel with security duties.” While calling for harmonization with the language used in STCW, the Committee does not go as far as recommending use of the STCW terminology “with designated security duties” as part of the phrase being defined. The Committee also correctly points out that the STCW requirements for all types of security-related endorsements apply only to personnel serving on vessels large enough to be subject to the ISPS Code. As worded in the SNPRM, 46 CFR section 15.1113 would apply this limit only to Vessel Security Officers and not to personnel with designated security duties or other crew members. MERPAC also appropriately recommends that full use be made of transitional provisions included in the 2010 STCW Amendments for the security endorsements, as well as a compliance waiver until 2017 suggested in IMO Circular STCW.7/Circ. 16. (Actually, the Circular says Port State Control authorities “should” not require 2010 security-related documentation until 2014, as long as there is compliance with the security training provisions of section A/13 of the ISPS Code, but the Committee’s hearts are in the right place.) In addition, MERPAC argues that contractors and other personnel should not be required to obtain (presumably maritime security awareness) endorsements as it would be an additional burden on them. (As proposed in the SNPRM, 46 CFR 15.1113 would already make getting either a maritime security awareness endorsement or a designated security duties endorsement optional for these individuals, as they would be allowed to demonstrate compliance with a course completion certificate—from a USCG-approved course, of course.) The Committee would also like to see the regulations provide that completion of a USCG-approved VSO course or designation as a VSO would be deemed compliance with the maritime security training requirements for all other shipboard personnel. In a couple of cases, MERPAC recommends specific language be adopted in the regulations to accomplish its recommendations.
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By Professional Mariner Staff