Commercial Vessel Compliance

2/15/2017: Rules governing Coast Guard personnel acceptance of in-kind transportation, travel and subsistence

Editor’s note: This post was updated Nov. 13, 2017, to add the full content of the Coast Guard’s Commandant Notice ACN 018/17. The previous edition only included a link to the original message.

The Coast Guard recently published a notice for its workforce governing acceptance of in-kind transportation, travel and subsistence when providing a service or thing of value to regulated industry or individuals at their request, and during the execution of prevention activities.

In an effort to keep our subscribers informed of policy that may affect the maritime industry, the content of the notice follows:

1. This ALCOAST announces the intention of the U.S. Coast Guard to allow acceptance of offered in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence in accordance with section 311 of the Howard Coble Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2014. This authority can be used only while providing a service or thing of value to regulated industry or individuals at their request. Whenever possible, requests from industry should come in a written format, inclusive of email correspondence.

2. Coast Guard personnel engaged in inspections and examinations activities may accept in-kind transportation, travel and subsistence when authorized in advance by an O-5 Commanding Officer, or an O-6/GS-15 and above in their chain of command or as delegated or authorized in written command policy. In-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence may not be solicited or requested by Coast Guard personnel and should follow the guidance for ethical conduct outlined in Standards of Ethical Conduct, COMDTINST M5370.8 (series). However, merely informing a non-Federal source of the Coast Guard’s legal authority to accept in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence is not considered a solicitation. Offers of in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence may be refused. Possible reasons for refusal could include, but are not limited to: if acceptance would make it appear that the Coast Guard cannot carry out Prevention responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner, travel offered clearly violates Coast Guard policy as is outlined in the above references, or for any reason the unit or traveler feels that non-acceptance would be prudent.

3. Acceptance of offers for in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence is authorized when the Coast Guard provides a service or thing of value during the
execution of Prevention Activities, which include, but are not limited to, inspections and examinations conducted at the convenience of the owner/operator, or non-Federal source requesting the service and providing transportation travel, or subsistence. Acceptance of in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence for routine investigation activities is not allowed due to the potential for a conflict of interest during the investigation. If no other options are available, the Coast Guard may accept in-kind transportation, travel, and subsistence during an investigation if it is a matter of immediate response, vessel or industry security, or pending safety situation. Approval from the O-5 Commanding Officer or first O-6/GS-15 in the chain of command is explicitly required in writing.

4. Payment in kind means transportation, food, lodging, or other travel-related services provided by a non–Federal entity directly to the service provider in lieu of funds paid to the agency. Travel, subsistence, and related expenses (travel expenses) means the same types of official travel expenses payable pursuant to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), and Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for transportation, food, lodging or other travel-related services. The accepting agency and traveler is responsible for ensuring that offered in-kind travel, transportation, or subsistence is in accordance with the above regulations and manuals and does not exceed applicable per diem rates. If the actual cost is unknown, the transportation in-kind and travel expenses should not exceed that which would normally be afforded a person providing a similar service to the vessel or facility (e.g) would include meals taken with ships officers or crew consisting of standard fare, overnight accommodations that are at the discretion and convenience of the vessel/facility owner/operator and are not unduly upgraded based on position or rank, or airfare class that is commonly used by persons providing a similar service, with the exception of first class airfare which is always prohibited for government travelers).

5. A service or thing of value means the expenditure of any Coast Guard personnel hours or resources which improves safety or security, or addresses an emergent need for Coast Guard attendance in the execution of the Prevention Mission. (e.g; industry or vessel inspection or examinations conducted at the request of an
owner/operator requiring transportation, travel, or subsistence).

6. Acceptance of in-kind transportation, travel, or subsistence while in a travel status must be noted on orders and costs must not be claimed by traveler.

7. Acceptance of offers for in-kind transportation, travel, or subsistence, including helicopter transportation must be tracked and reported by the command within seven calendar days following the end of each calendar quarter via the CVC Portal page. All spreadsheet fields must be filled out for a successful submission. Information reported will include: unit, name and position of traveling employee, name and address of offeror; description of service provided including MISLE Activity number; time and place of services; nature of expenses covered i.e. mode of transportation, lodging, and meals.

8. Transportation via helicopter shall only be accepted if the helicopter meets or exceeds the guidance established in Coast Guard Air Operations Manual, COMDTINST M3710.1 (series).

9. Coordination at the Headquarters level is ongoing and is centered on refining this process while meeting the requirements outlined in Howard Coble Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2014.

10. Reimbursable Travel Program. 46 U.S.C. 3317 requires that when an inspection or examination of a documented vessel or a foreign vessel is conducted at a foreign port or place at the request of the owner or managing operator of the vessel, the owner or operator shall reimburse the Secretary for the travel and subsistence expenses incurred by the personnel assigned to perform the inspection or examination. If the choice is made to accept in-kind travel, transportation, or subsistence for overseas travel, all arrangements must be in accordance with paragraph 4 above. The owner or managing operator remains responsible for all other associated charges (e.g; per diem and the overseas fee). The inspector accepting the in-kind reimbursement must file receipts for lodging and transportation, or other documentation of the accepted in-kind reimbursement along with billing information as required for overseas reimbursable travel.

11. This policy will be updated in the next revision of the Standards of Ethical Conduct, COMDTINST M5370.8 (series), which will be released within the next year.

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.