Bridge Programs

9/16/2014: Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy answers questions about role of social media in Coast Guard policy

Written by Rear Adm. Paul Thomas

Last week, at an American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 75, better known as API RP75, task group meeting, two questions were brought to my attention regarding the use of social media to discuss Coast Guard policy. I would like to address both of these concerns and encourage the conversation to continue about how we are doing with the use of Maritime Commons as a means of communication for you, the professional maritime community.

Q) Will the Coast Guard really consider using blog postings as a means to drive policy development?

First, I would like to thank you for your questions. The Coast Guard uses an array of tools to communicate policy, regulation and best practice with stakeholders in an effort to foster a safety culture across the maritime domain. Social media is one of these tools. The Coast Guard has been communicating with the public via social media since 2007, including broad discussions of policy and strategy. In March 2014, we expanded our efforts to include directed communication to maritime professionals via Maritime Commons.

Maritime Commons is not a replacement or substitute for regulation or policy. Instead, Maritime Commons offers a different space to host discussions about concepts or policy under development. It is simply another venue, in addition to conferences, local engagements, question and answer sessions, website feedback forms and other methods of feedback collection, for the Coast Guard to gather input.

The Coast Guard values input from all stakeholders, to include other government agencies, the private sector, individual operators and the American taxpayer. Maritime Commons offers a space for the Coast Guard to update and notify stakeholders as well as to listen to valuable feedback.

In an effort to gain insight into offshore operations and safety practices, the Coast Guard used Maritime Commons to host a conversation about safety culture. We want to hear from operators, owners and other stakeholders involved in offshore operations.

I consider Maritime Commons to be similar to a speaking engagement. When I provide remarks to the public on a Coast Guard issue, I often ask for questions or input on the topic. As with speaking engagements, feedback through social media will be discussed and considered in a similar manner but among a potentially unlimited number of stakeholders.

Policy development is a complex process that involves a great deal of research and a plentitude of conversations. Social media is simply another venue for the Coast Guard to hold conversations.

Q) How can the public be sure that the posted information is legit with forums such as Twitter?

The Maritime Commons blog and @maritimecommons Twitter feed are official notification and update tools managed at Coast Guard Headquarters. Information posted to these social media tools are legitimate updates but are not to be confused with the official source documents such as posted to sites like Homeport, the Federal Register or other websites. The blog posts will always redirect readers to official source documents and official repositories for comments on the same.

The information posted, or linked to, on Maritime Commons’ blog and twitter feeds is provided by our Coast Guard headquarters’ staff and vetted by subject matter experts. The actual blog and Twitter posts are to provide notification of an update. When updates pertain to policy and regulatory updates, the posts contain source document links for stakeholders to follow for compliance purposes.

The Coast Guard created Maritime Commons to become better communicators and to provide a timely, two-way communication tool for our maritime stakeholders. I’d like to personally thank those of you who have participated in the recent discussion on safety culture as well as those of you who raised these concerns.

If you have concerns, ideas or feedback on how we can improve, please email our editor at

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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