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Fewer casualty reports and crew members completing drug and alcohol testing can be expected from 18 April 2018 as the US Coast Guard increases the monetary property damage threshold amounts for reporting marine casualties.

Further to our alert “US marine casualty reporting” of 15 July 2016, the US Coast Guard (USCG) published a final rule on 19 March 2018, amending the monetary property damage threshold amounts for reporting a marine casualty and for reporting a type of marine casualty called a “serious marine incident” (SMI). The final rule, which takes effect on 18 April 2018,increases the reportable marine casualty property damage threshold amount in 46 CFR 4.05-1(a)(7) from USD 25,000 to USD 75,000. It also changes the SMI property damage threshold in 46 CFR 4.03-2(a)(3) from USD 100,000 to USD 200,000. Mandatory drug and alcohol testing will still be required if the property damage meets the amended monetary threshold amounts of those marine casualties in excess of USD 200,000. The final rule in its entirety can be found in the Federal Register under Docket No. USCG-2016-0748.

Please note that other marine casualties detailed in 46 CFR 4.05-1, such as groundings, bridge strikes, losses resulting in reduced vessel manoeuvrability, impacts on vessel seaworthiness or fitness for service or route, loss of life, injury requiring professional medical treatment, or significant harm to the environment, must still be reported - regardless of the property damage cost involved. For example, if a vessel strikes a bridge, it does not matter whether the strike resulted in any damage, pollution, or injuries, as a bridge strike is in itself a reportable marine casualty.

According to the USCG, the CG–2692 forms released in 2016 will also be amended to reflect the rule changes. The changes to Form CG–2692 will involve revising its title and moving certain sections to two new addendum forms.

Background for the amendments

US regulations require that vessels notify the USCG immediately of hazardous conditions and certain marine casualties. The original regulations that set the property damage dollar threshold amounts were enacted in the 1980s and have not been updated since that time. As the monetary thresholds for reporting have not kept pace with inflation, vessel owners and operators have been required to report relatively minor casualties. In addition, the original regulations require mandatory drug and alcohol testing following an SMI. As a result, vessel owners and operators have been conducting testing for casualties that are less significant than those intended to be captured by the original regulations. Updating the original regulations will reduce the burden on vessel owners and operators, and will also reduce the amount of USCG resources used to investigate these incidents.

Recommendations

Members and clients with US-flag vessels and vessels operating in US waters are advised to review the final rule to determine how the new reporting thresholds and drugs and alcohol testing requirement impact on their operations and revise their policies and procedures accordingly. It is also important to ensure that relevant crews and operational personnel are aware of the requirements to immediately notify the USCG of any hazardous condition or casualties onboard and that fleets have available the most recent version of the reporting forms.

Not all casualties are reportable, as such reporting is dependent on the type of incident and the circumstances surrounding each incident. It is therefore difficult to provide a concise summary of the types of conditions that must be reported but in general, the "hazardous condition" notice requirements found at 33 CFR 160.216 apply to a much broader range of conditions or casualties than the "marine casualty" notice and reporting requirements found at 46 CFR Subpart 4.05. One example is a fall overboard that does not result in injury or death but may create a hazardous condition when manoeuvring in congested waters.

 

Additional guidance and interpretation of the aforementioned regulations, as well as the latest version of the CG-2692 forms, can be downloaded via USCG Operations Home: https://www.dco.uscg.mil and the menu path: Our Organization > Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy (CG-5P) > Inspections and Compliance (CG-5PC) > Office of Investigations & Casualty Analysis.