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Coast Guard Releases Voluntary Safety Initiative for Commercial Fishing Vessels

This past week, the U.S. Coast Guard released a new voluntary program replacing the existing Alternate Safety Compliance Program (ASCP). If you aren’t sure what the ASCP was about, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Marine Transportation Act of 2012 call for fishing vessels to meet safety standards issued by classification societies.

Recognizing that most existing fishing vessels will not be able to meet the classification standards, the ASCP was written to provide an alternative means for these vessels to meet the improved standards. The problem is that regulations incorporating the new standards have yet to be adopted and it’s hard to have an alternative to a regulatory requirement that doesn’t yet exist.

Enter the Voluntary Safety Initiatives and Good Marine Practices for Commercial Fishing Vessels. This is a voluntary standard for older fishing vessels, developed with input from fishing industry representatives. The Good Marine Practices program replaces the ASCP and establishes minimum safety standards for the operation of all fishing vessels. In time these standards will be incorporated into the regulatory requirements for unclassified fishing vessels.

The Coast Guard is quick to point out that they are very interested in feedback on these standards. Fishing organizations representing specific fleets are encouraged to work with the Coast Guard’s District Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinators for their region to determine the measures in the good marine practices that may not be applicable to their fleet. Individuals are encouraged to discuss the standards with their local Coast Guard fishing vessel examiner or District Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator.

The Coast Guard hopes that all fishing vessels embrace these good marine practices where possible and reasonable. Please keep in mind that depending on your vessel and where you fish, many of the standards in the voluntary program, may already be a requirement for your operation. Click here to download the new voluntary standards.

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