Commercial Vessel Compliance

11/28/2017: New policy letter available regarding issuance and acceptance of electronic certificates

The Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance released Policy Letter 17-09, “Issuance and Acceptance of Electronic Certificates,” to provide guidance for the issuance and acceptance of certain electronic certificates to U.S. flag vessels and those foreign-flagged vessels trading in U.S. waters subject to Port State Control.

This policy letter authorizes and states the conditions under which Authorized Classification Societies (ACSs) and Recognized Organizations (ROs) may issue electronic certificates to U.S. flag vessels as well as the conditions under which they will be accepted by the Coast Guard for foreign vessels subject to Port State Control Exams in the United States. Nothing in this policy letter requires a vessel owner, operator, ACS or RO to request or issue electronic certificates.

Traditionally, Contracting Governments and Recognized Organizations authorized to act on their behalf have issued signed paper certificates to document compliance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) instruments. Recognizing that paper certificates are subject to loss or damage and can be impractical to send to globally-trading vessels, certain Contracting Governments pioneered the use of electronic certificates. However, in some cases, these Administrations experienced instances of Port State Control interventions where the validity of electronic certificates, including printed versions of the certificates, was questioned by the PSCO. The IMO developed FAL.5/Circ.39 Rev.2 “Guidelines for the Use of Electronic Certificates” to standardize features to both alleviate the problems inherent in reliance on paper certificates and provide a mechanism for verifying authenticity of electronic certificates. For example, an electronic certificate could be as simple as a signed, scanned, and printed document or as complex as a totally digital version viewed on the issuer’s website. IMO’s FAL.5/Circ.39 Rev.2 is intended to address the full range of options for creating, issuing, and viewing electronic certificates.

For full details read or download Policy Letter 17-09.

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.