April 03, 2020 Practice Points

U.S. Coast Guard Announces Alternative COVID-19 Vessel Inspection Procedures

A list of highlights from Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) Number 09-20.

By David Y. Loh

On March 26, 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) Number 09-20, entitled “Vessel Inspections, Exams, and Documentation.”

The following is a list of highlights from MSIB 09-20:

  1. “[T]he Coast Guard will liberally use remote inspection techniques to verify vessel compliances and, if needed, defer inspections.
  2. “Prior to boarding a vessel or immediately prior to conducting a pre-exam/inspection meeting, Marine Inspectors, Port Safety Control Officers (PSCO’s), and Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiners will verify with the vessel representative that there are no ill persons onboard.”
  3. With respect to U.S. Flagged Vessels and Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Inspections, local Coast Guard personnel may:
    1. Chose to require Coast Guard attendance to conduct an inspection;
    2. “Accept objective evidence such as recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc., in lieu of [personal] attendance onboard the vessel to credit a required inspection or exam;”
    3. “Defer a required inspection or exam for up to 90 days;”
  4. Third party organizations “conducting surveys or audits on behalf of the Coast Guard may request extensions on a case-by-case basis on behalf of the vessel owner or operator.”
  5. With respect to Port State Control (PSC) exams, the Coast Guard:
    1. Will conduct a risk based evaluation on whether a vessel will be required to conduct a PSC examination.  No vessel deficiencies or detentions for expired certifications and qualifications until October 1, 2020.
    2. May choose to require personal attendance to conduct a Certificate of Compliance exam, but may accept objective evidence at to vessel status, such as prior port state or flag state exams, recent class surveys, photos, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc., in lieu of personnel attendance, or elect to defer inspection for up to 90 days.

Those interested in more information should review MSIB 09-20 directly.

David Y. Loh is a member with Cozen O'Connor in New York City, New York.

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