The domestic passenger vessel industry has been inspected by the Coast Guard for more than 60 years. As a result, operators have amassed a great deal of knowledge about the inspection process and the regulations that apply to their vessels.
There have been numerous efforts by the Coast Guard to streamline the inspection process. One was the creation of the optional Streamlined Inspection Program (SIP) in 1997 to give U.S. vessel owners and operators an alternative method of complying with inspection requirements.
My company, BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, has operated under the effective and underrated SIP since the program’s start. SIP was an effort to reform the Coast Guard inspection program and identify ways to streamline it while still verifying a vessel’s compliance with regulation. Under SIP, company personnel conduct the inspections based on a management plan, developed in cooperation with local Coast Guard personnel, and then take corrective action if deficiencies are identified.
While the Coast Guard conducts an inspection, they also check the management of the company’s SIP and spot check certain vessel systems to verify accuracy.
For an owner, the SIP program is an excellent alternative to traditional vessel inspection because it empowers employees. Employees provide the energy and knowledge that keeps the vessel in good working order. They are aware of what to inspect and can make the timely decisions necessary to keep the vessel in compliance.
The major strength of SIP is that you consistently evaluate the vessel according to the management plan, and when a problem is uncovered, you identify it, report it and fix it. The net effect is a fluid process that allows you to stay ahead of the Coast Guard inspection curve. It builds trust with Coast Guard inspectors and helps increase safety.
I was fortunate that my company got in on the ground floor with SIP. A good friend of mine, the late Kenny Stein of Sayville Ferry Service, Sayville, N.Y, worked tirelessly with the Coast Guard to help develop this program.
With Coast Guard resources again being squeezed, the time is right to revisit inspection alternatives such as SIP.