Monday, September 24, 2012

Coast Guard mandates what once was voluntary for commercial fishermen

 What once was voluntary  for Great Lakes commercial fishermen is now mandatory.

To help ensure the safety of commercial fishing vessel operators and crews, the U.S. Coast Guard is now insisting on participation in a checking of safety gear.

The requirement is for  commercial fishing vessels ONLY;  NOT personal sport or licensed sport-fishing charters. Another rule is that the vessel must operate at least three miles from shore.

It is likewise important to note that the dockside examination is free, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman told The News-Herald.

Here is the test of the Coast Guard's recent press release on the subject:

CFVS exam decal
Once a commercial fishing vessel is found to be in compliance with all applicable regulations, the Coast Guard's Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination decal is required on all vessels operating beyond three nautical miles offshore.

CLEVELAND — The 9th Coast Guard District announces today that a commercial fishing vessel safety exam will be required for all commercial fishing vessels operating beyond three nautical miles offshore.

The dockside exam, which has been administered for more than a decade on a voluntary basis, will be required after Oct. 16 and affects commercial fishing vessels nationwide.

The examination is free of charge and covers regulatory topics including: lifesaving equipment, communications, firefighting and various other operational readiness measures.

Vessels that pass the exam are awarded a decal noting compliance with applicable regulations, which remains valid for up to two years.

Currently, no fines are assessed if discrepancies are noted when a vessel receives a voluntary dockside safety exam.

However, after Oct. 16, a vessel found operating beyond three nautical miles offshore without a valid decal may be subject to enforcement action.

"Fortunately, many commercial fishermen have sought to receive the Coast Guard exams on a voluntary basis," said Lt. Michael Collet, the 9th Coast Guard District's commercial fishing vessel coordinator. 

"Maintaining compliance with these regulations will help improve safety throughout the U.S. fishing community, which statistically, has been one of the most dangerous occupations in the country."

Recently, Coast Guard Headquarters released a letter to the commercial fishing industry to explain the dockside safety exam requirements.

The notification letter and other helpful information are available at

Commercial fishermen in the Great Lakes region should contact a commercial fishing vessel examiner at one of the following Coast Guard units to schedule a complimentary dockside exam:

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Cleveland
Coast Guard Sector Detroit
Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio
Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Duluth, Minn.
218-720-5286, ext. 109
Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, Milwaukee
Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago
Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Sturgeon Bay, Wis.          
Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven, Mich.

The safety  examination requirement is one of several mandates established by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010.  Existing fishing industry vessel safety regulations may be found in 46 CFR, Part 28.

Any questions or concerns can be directed to Lt. Michael Collet, 9th Coast Guard District commercial fishing vessel coordinator, at 216-902-6051 or

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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