Commercial Vessel Compliance

11/6/2017: Coast Guard-Passenger Vessel Association Quality Partnership Meeting recap

The Coast Guard and the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) held their bi-annual Quality Partnership Meeting Oct. 26, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss safety issues and other topics affecting the professional passenger vessel industry. Maritime Commons attended the meeting and is providing a summary of the discussions and key takeaways.

Attendees included Coast Guard staff from the offices of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Investigation and Compliance Analysis, Traveling Inspectors, Auxiliary and Boating Safety, and Design and Engineering Standards. Representatives from many segments of the passenger vessel industry were also present: river cruise lines, the amphibious vessel fleet, ferry services fleet, and naval architects.

The Coast Guard/PVA partnership was established in 1996 as a non-regulatory mechanism for cooperative, informal, consistent and structured activities to address issues of passenger, personnel, and property safety, and environmental protection within the domestic passenger industry.

In remarks to attendees, Capt. Jennifer Williams, Coast Guard co-chair and director of Inspections and Compliance at Coast Guard Headquarters, and Jeff Whitaker, co-chair and president of the PVA, welcomed members to the meeting and thanked them for their dedication and commitment to the safety of the millions of people that the country’s 6,200 passenger vessels transport annually. Williams also recognized the Coast Guard for its continuing work to help the hurricane-devastated areas of the country and territories recover.

Lt. Kevin Kuhn with the Coast Guard’s Systems Engineering Division of the Office of Design and Engineering Standards kicked off the formal agenda with a presentation on cyber and autonomous vessels, focusing on the need for maritime industry to assess and manage cyber risk like it manages other operational risks.

“Operational risk management is the bedrock of industry,” Kuhn said. “You’ve helped us embrace new technology for decades and that’s what will help us in the ‘cyber-fication’ of systems and automation. Although there is naturally a technical side to understanding the impact of automation, the world of cyber is multi-faceted and it’s critical to not lose sight of the human element when examining any risk to cyber systems.”

Williams and Whitaker then heard from members about the progress of several workgroup projects, including the adoption of risk-based vessel inspections; the study of leading contributing factors of passenger slips, trips and falls and the preventative measures the industry is taking to reduce injuries; the implications of engine automation on small passenger vessels; strategies to combat the dangers of illegal passenger/chartering operations; risks associated with increased use of lithium ion batteries in all aspects of modern society; and efforts to reduce the risk of collisions between recreational boaters and commercial vessels in shared waterways through education and outreach.

Other updates included:

  • The Office of Investigations and Compliance Analysis gave a snapshot of 2016/2017 passenger injury and fatality statistics to be presented at the spring 2018 meeting. Of the 50 fatalities involving passenger vessels regulated under 46 Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapters H, K, or T, seven were categorized as vessel-related, while 43 were contributed to other factors such as existing medical conditions, overexertion, or sickness. Full statistics will be available later this year.
  • The Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance briefed the group on the publication of two policy letters that address issues associated with the testing of machinery alarms on small passenger vessels:
  • The Office of Investigations and Analysis also updated the group on a planned Coast Guard CG-INV Policy Letter, which will instruct Investigating Officers to provide notification, via either phone or email, to merchant mariners prior to initiating Suspension and Revocation proceedings for offenses detected during a marine casualty investigation. Notifying mariners of the Coast Guard’s intent to initiate an administrative investigation against their Merchant Mariner Credential will provide mariners with adequate time to meet with Coast Guard representatives or obtain legal counsel. The new policy will only apply to non-drug related offenses (e.g., complaints for negligence, misconduct, or incompetence).


PVA’s regulatory affairs consultant updated the group on ongoing efforts to modify a nearly 50-year-old Great Lakes Radio Agreement between the U.S. and Canada with FCC, which requires passenger vessels to have radio equipment inspected every 13 months, to reflect the modern standards of digital radio equipment.

PVA staff highlighted the Coast Guard’s June 2017 approval of PVA’s Flagship, a voluntary alternative safety management system designed specifically for domestic passenger and small passenger vessels, and discussed the way forward with implementation.

To close the meeting, Williams and Whitaker facilitated an open discussion among the attendees on a variety of topics including the recent renewal of the PVA’s Alternate Security Program, and PVA’s contribution to the President’s ongoing regulatory reform. Additionally, attendees discussed ways to improve communication between the passenger vessel fleet and local Coast Guard marine inspectors to improve the overall effectiveness of vessel inspections.

The next Coast Guard/PVA Quality Partnership meeting will be held in the spring of 2018.

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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