Has the Coast Guard gone international?

I am increasingly concerned with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It’s not about the group’s regulation of international vessels but with the potential impact that emerging IMO rules might have on domestic U.S. vessel operators and mariners.

The Coast Guard leads a delegation from the U.S. to IMO each year. I understand the need for our government to participate at this level, but I am concerned that this involvement may somehow result in more internationally oriented regulations back home. There are good reasons for my anxiety.

The recent Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) final rule, which calls for such things as stricter medical standards for mariners and broader mariner training requirements, are based on international standards, which are not appropriate for our domestic fleet or mariners. I am also concerned with the renewed emphasis on the internationally recognized Safety Management System standard. I do, however, support the development of the Passenger Vessel Association’s Flagship safety management system that is being designed to meet the needs of the domestic passenger vessel fleet.

There is no need to shift to international standards. Our domestic vessel operating companies and their mariners are the most professional and well trained in the world. Our domestic regulators in the Coast Guard are informed, experienced, dedicated and fully capable of regulating our industry without international influence. The safety record of the domestic passenger vessel industry fleet far surpasses that of any other nation. We have regulations that are clearly defined and operators and mariners who are well informed and compliant. I cannot say the same for all of our international maritime counterparts. Most of the major maritime disasters occur overseas or in Third World countries with poorly defined or enforced maritime regulations.

U.S. domestic passenger vessel operators and the other U.S. marine industry segments are well ahead of many nations on most management and regulatory fronts. While there is always a need for change, it must be based on conditions and situations that exist internally not internationally.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or abernstein@bbriverboats.com.

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