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USCG Provides Flexibility on F/V Safety Exams in Response to COVID-19

The U.S. Coast Guard is giving OCMIs (Officers in Charge, Marine Inspection) the discretion to defer many commercial vessel inspections and exams up to 90 days, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes commercial fishing vessel safety dockside exams, according to Marine Safety Information Bulletin 09-20, released on March 26, 2020.

This may be good news for commercial fishermen, concerned about not meeting the training requirements of 46 CFR 28.270(c). AMSEA has had to cancel many Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor classes this spring due social distancing requirements adopted in response to COVID-19.

The local OCMI will address individual vessels on a case-by-case case. The OCMI's will make a determination on whether to defer the dockside exam or not, based on the OCMI's evaluation of the vessel's history and in consultation with the owner. If the exam is deferred, the OCMI will issue a letter of deferral to the vessel owner/operator to be retained on board the vessel. MSIB 09-20 notes that, "Prior to boarding a vessel or immediately prior to conducting a pre-exam/inspection meeting, Marine Inspectors, Port State Control Officers (PSCOs), and Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiners will verify with the vessel representative that there are no ill persons onboard. Coast Guard personnel will practice the appropriate protective measures as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." Read the bulletin to get all the details and to learn about examination and inspection deferrals for other types of commercial vessels.

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