usc

By Michael O’Brien

When a maritime casualty or accident occurs, it must be determined whether the occurrence meets the criteria for notifying the Coast Guard. Note that a “marine casualty or accident” is purposefully defined broadly in governmental regulations to capture a wide variety of occurrences. Indeed, the statutes and regulations pertinent to marine casualties and accidents provide the U.S. Coast Guard the authority and jurisdiction to investigate a wide range of occurrences that include both commercial and recreational vessel activities. Recognizing the complexity of the current marine casualty reporting laws and regulations, as well as inconsistent enforcement of these laws and regulations, the U.S. Coast Guard believed that additional guidance to clarify the reporting laws and regulations would benefit both the marine industry and the Coast Guard field commanders. Thus, the United States Coast Guard recently issued Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (“NVIC”) No. 01-15 and its Enclosure to provide guidance and clarification of the identification and reporting of marine casualties. Full text of the NVIC No. 01-15 can be found on the Coast Guard’s website here.

The information collected during a marine casualty investigation is used by a wide audience for many purposes including enforcement of laws, the enhancement of safety alerts and recommendations, the development of additional standards, and the support of safety studies. Thus, the Coast Guard maintains that it is critical that casualty information be properly captured and documented.  NVIC No. 01-15 and its Enclosure are designed to provide additional guidance to standardize the collection and reporting of marine casualty data by highlighting the existing regulations, policies and procedures in a chart form with the text of the various regulations presented next to interpretations of the individual regulations.

The Enclosure to NVIC No. 01-15 provides a great deal of information and interpretation of the applicable regulations in a quick reference chart. While it is impossible to outline every scenario that can occur in the offshore industry, the information and examples provided in the Enclosure, can serve as a common “framework of understanding” of the rules for the maritime industry and the Coast Guard. Any business or corporation currently working in the maritime industry should review NVIC 01-15 and its Enclosure and be familiar with its contents. It would also be beneficial to maintain a copy on any vessels so that there would be no confusion as to what must be reported to the Coast Guard in the event of a marine casualty or accident.