Dockside safety exams for most commercial fishing vessels become mandatory in October

Coast Guard Alaska NewsJUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard is requiring all commercial fishing vessels that operate or fish more than three miles from the territorial sea baseline to complete a mandatory Coast Guard dockside safety exam as of Oct. 16, 2012.

This regulatory change comes as a result of Congress’ passing of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. This change affects commercial fishing fleets nationwide, and the Coast Guard is conducting outreach efforts to ensure those affected are aware of the changes with the goal of having them in compliance before the deadline.

“The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 introduces a number of new rules the Coast Guard will be enforcing,” said Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard District 17 commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator. “The use of ‘three miles from the territorial sea baseline’ is a bit of a change from the existing regulation, which uses a complicated definition of the “boundary line.” It will be a lot easier to understand because most nautical charts show a thin grey line that indicates where that three miles from the territorial sea baseline is located so it becomes very simple to see if you are operating seaward or shoreward of that line. If you are operating, either fishing or transiting your boat, beyond that three mile line, then the 16th of October deadline applies to you, and your fishing vessel needs to have completed a dockside safety exam.”

Dockside examinations are free of charge, and currently no penalties will be issued for discrepancies. If discrepancies are found, vessel owners will be issued a worklist and a reasonable time to correct any issues. The goal is to bring commercial fishermen into compliance while minimizing disruptions to fishing.

“There is no good reason to put off or delay the start of an exam,” said Lawrenson. “Exams are free and most vessels already have the safety equipment and documentation to pass a dockside safety exam.”

A letter from the Coast Guard to the commercial fishing industry explaining the dockside safety exam requirements is available at www.fishsafe.info. In Alaska, fishermen are asked to contact their nearest Coast Guard Sector or Marine Safety Detachment to schedule an exam:

In Ketchikan, 907 225-4496
In Sitka, 907 966-5454
In Juneau, 907 463-2448
In Valdez, 907 835-7223
In Homer, 907 235-3292
In Kodiak, 907 486-5918
In Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, 907 581-3466
In Anchorage, 907 271-6700

Questions or concerns can be directed to Ken Lawrenson at 907-463-2810 office, 907-321-4110 cell or e-mail to Kenneth.m.lawrenson@uscg.mil.

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