Coast Guard compliance examinations constitute the principal method by which uninspected fishing vessels are exposed to federal checks for mandated equipment and adherence to federal laws and regulations. This appendix assesses their role in improving safety.
Compliance examinations are most closely associated with enforcement of laws and regulations pertaining to recreational boating safety, fisheries management, conservation, marine pollution, and customs. The Coast Guard refers to this activity as maritime law enforcement (MLE), enforcement of laws and treaties (ELY), and sometimes inspections, although four distinct Coast Guard programs are involved. But in practice, the term “boardings” is most frequently used, reflecting the process by which “compliance examinations” are conducted. In this appendix, boardings refers to the process, and compliance examinations to the function. This terminology is also applied to distinguish this activity from the Coast Guard 's vessel inspection program.
Boardings are conducted by the Coast Guard to detect and suppress violations of all federal laws. The nature and frequency of compliance examinations of uninspected fishing vessels during boardings varies depending upon Coast Guard operational priorities, resource availability, and funding. They may be random, the result of an apparent violation or problem observed by the Coast Guard, conducted to satisfy the objectives of several Coast Guard programs, or coincidental with other operational activities. They may be conducted under
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program APPENDIX F Coast Guard Compliance Examinations Coast Guard compliance examinations constitute the principal method by which uninspected fishing vessels are exposed to federal checks for mandated equipment and adherence to federal laws and regulations. This appendix assesses their role in improving safety. THE NATURE OF COMPLIANCE ACTIVITY Compliance examinations are most closely associated with enforcement of laws and regulations pertaining to recreational boating safety, fisheries management, conservation, marine pollution, and customs. The Coast Guard refers to this activity as maritime law enforcement (MLE), enforcement of laws and treaties (ELY), and sometimes inspections, although four distinct Coast Guard programs are involved. But in practice, the term “boardings” is most frequently used, reflecting the process by which “compliance examinations” are conducted. In this appendix, boardings refers to the process, and compliance examinations to the function. This terminology is also applied to distinguish this activity from the Coast Guard 's vessel inspection program. Boardings are conducted by the Coast Guard to detect and suppress violations of all federal laws. The nature and frequency of compliance examinations of uninspected fishing vessels during boardings varies depending upon Coast Guard operational priorities, resource availability, and funding. They may be random, the result of an apparent violation or problem observed by the Coast Guard, conducted to satisfy the objectives of several Coast Guard programs, or coincidental with other operational activities. They may be conducted under
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program way or dockside. The Coast Guard attempts to minimize inconvenience to vessels boarded. However, the Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) consider boarding of vessels on the fishing grounds while engaged in fishing essential to enforcement (see Sutinen et al., 1989a,b). Records of prior compliance examinations are generally not accepted by Coast Guard boarding officers as current evidence of compliance. A full examination is usually conducted to ensure that the vessel 's compliance status has not changed. NMFS officials sometimes accompany Coast Guard personnel during examinations conducted for fisheries management and conservation (see Sutinen et al., 1989a,b; Chandler, 1988; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 1986). Inspected commercial vessels and uninspected commercial vessels that require a licensed operator (e.g., uninspected passenger and towing industry vessels) are not normally subjected to comprehensive enforcement activities while under way. Preinspections may be conducted while a vessel is under way, but more thorough compliance examinations are usually conducted while the vessel is moored at an industrial facility, often to determine compliance with marine pollution regulations as in the case of tankers or tank barges. Underway boarding of these vessels for general law and regulatory enforcement is an exception, usually where there is evidence or suspicion of a violation or illegal activity like drug smuggling. Thus. while all commercial vessels may be boarded under way, only uninspected fishing vessels are routinely stopped while actively engaged in their trade. If the Coast Guard establishes a presail inspection requirement for fishing vessels, under present compliance examination policies fishing vessels could be subject to both mandatory inspections prior to operation and continued random compliance examinations. Some underway boardings of fishing vessels are expected to remain standard Coast Guard procedure regardless of the outcome of rulemaking required by the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 (CFIVSA), because these enforcement measures are needed to oversee compliance with fisheries management, conservation, and smuggling laws. Whether a valid inspection record of some form will be considered evidence of compliance with safety equipment regulations by boarding officers conducting operational examinations is an unresolved Coast Guard policy issue. OBJECTIVES OF COMPLIANCE EXAMINATIONS Ideally, the focus of safety initiatives would be motivating changes that could overcome or mitigate safety problems by leading to safer vessels, operations, and work practices rather than compliance with laws and regulations. Compliance examinations could serve as a check on safety performance, with passing them an incidental and natural by-product of effective safety programs.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program Conceptually, this could help ensure that compliance programs do not become the end rather than the means. The objectives of Coast Guard maritime law enforcement boardings of recreational and uninspected vessels are to deter unsafe operation, to detect vessel violations, and to educate the maritime public. Boarding officers are charged to promote safety by pointing out and explaining potentially dangerous conditions, whether or not they are contrary to laws and regulations (U.S. Coast Guard [USCG], 1986a). The effectiveness of compliance examinations in achieving fisheries management objectives and improving safety aboard uninspected fishing vessels has not been evaluated by the Coast Guard. In practice, the general focus of boarding activity has been on compliance rather than education. This is attributed to the wide range of boating safety, uninspected vessel, fisheries, conservation, and drug laws that are enforced as well as the operating conditions. The compliance focus to some degree appears to reflect the experience of relatively young technical personnel who conduct many of the boardings and who frequently have significantly less sea time (although not necessarily less knowledge) than the mariners with whom they interact. The myriad laws and regulations that boarding officers must address lead to using checklists to ensure that the range of regulations they are enforcing are adequately addressed. The boarding process can be as short as 20-30 minutes to more than 12 hours if a haul back is required to inspect the fishing gear and catch, as may be the case for factory trawler operations. A full drug enforcement inspection can require movement of fishing gear, which is frequently not an easy task, especially if there is a heavy deck load. All this is not conducive to on-the-spot education of the recipients. Thus, the boarding encounter aboard fishing vessels tends to be adversarial in nature. However, it may still be possible for skilled boarding officers, in situations where the adversarial nature of the event is less pronounced, to direct attention to actual or potential safety problems and encourage corrective action. THE EXTENT AND RESULTS OF COMPLIANCE EXAMINATIONS During fiscal year 1989 (FY 89), the Coast Guard's Summary Enforcement Event Report (SEER) data base recorded 8,176 of 35,622 total boardings for maritime law enforcement purposes involving uninspected fishing vessels. Over 2,200 of these were repeat boardings, a tactic used for fisheries enforcement purposes (see Sutinen et al., 1989a,b). SEER data do not distinguish between boardings while the vessel is fishing, in transit, or moored or anchored. In practice, most of these boardings are performed while the vessel is under way and often while fishing, especially when it is essential for determining whether correct net sizes are in use or the proper size and types of species are being taken.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program Thirty-eight percent of fishing vessel boardings resulted in “boating safety” violations. About 41 percent of all boardings recorded in SEER during FY 89 resulted in a boating safety violation. While the exact nature of these violations could not be determined, the data suggest that there is no significant difference in compliance with basic federal regulations between recreational boaters and commercial fishermen. Compliance with basic safety regulations that predate the CFIVSA is thought to be reasonably high. Coast Guard personnel familiar with the operational examinations of uninspected fishing vessels suggest that no more than 10-15 percent of violations were related to deficiencies in basic safety and survival equipment. About 11 percent of violations reported during a special operational examination program targeting the Sitka sac roe herring fishery in FY 89 were related to safety equipment deficiencies. A case study of this program is presented later in this appendix. Similar safety data were not available for other regions. Of 144 vessels seized for drug violations during FY 89, 61 were uninspected fishing vessels. SEER recorded 95 arrests associated with these seizures. It should be noted that a “zero tolerance” policy was in effect during the period. FY 89 seizures were up slightly from FY 87 and 88, while arrests were somewhat lower. Most of the seizures and arrests were associated with marijuana. Data on abuse of alcohol by fishermen were not available. SEER data suggest that the majority of fishing vessels were not involved in transporting contraband. However, substance abuse (both alcohol and drugs) was mentioned frequently during the regional assessments commissioned for this study. No data were available to indicate the degree to which substance abuse in the fishing industry compares with trends in other occupations or society at large. The general perception is that use of illegal drugs is more closely associated with highly transient crews than with vessels exhibiting a high degree of crew stability. During FY 89, using an estimated national fleet size of 111,000 vessels, an estimated 5-6 percent of uninspected fishing vessels nationally were subjected to Coast Guard equipment checks. About 2 percent were subjected to multiple examinations. Up to four boardings of the same vessel in 1 year are known to have occurred. Because of the enhanced boarding activity in selected Alaskan waters, a slightly higher percentage of uninspected fishing vessels there were exposed to direct Coast Guard checks of required equipment than elsewhere. Overall, boarding information is not conclusive, but suggests that uninspected fishing vessels generally comply with safety and survival equipment requirements in effect prior to June 1990. COURTESY MARINE EXAMINATIONS The Coast Guard does not offer courtesy examinations through organized Coast Guard units. However. uninspected fishing vessels are eligible for courtesy marine examinations (CMEs) offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program organization of private citizens sponsored by the Coast Guard. Auxiliary activity is almost exclusively oriented toward the recreational public. Uninspected fishing vessel use of the CME service is considered negligible by the Coast Guard. The number of commercial fishermen who may have attended Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, or other such public education courses is not known. CASE STUDY: SITKA SAC ROE HERRING FISHERY COMPLIANCE EXAMINATION PROGRAM The fishing industry is a major element of the Alaska state economy, and fishing there is front-page news. Well-publicized vessel losses and multiple fatalities in Alaskan waters have brought continuing attention to safety and survival at sea. Since 1988, the Coast Guard has conducted an intensive operational examination program just prior to and during the spring Sitka sac roe herring season in order to promote safety. During 1989, Coastguardsmen conducting the examinations were specially trained for the operation. A combination of underway and dockside boardings was employed. Underway boarding locations were periodically adjusted to offset changes in fishing vessel operating patterns intended to minimize exposure to boardings. As a result, the entire sac roe herring fleet operating in southeastern Alaskan waters was exposed to a comprehensive examination of vessel compliance with environmental and safety regulations. A checklist of 48 items was used. However, safety issues were stressed during boarding. Incidental boardings of uninspected fishing vessels from other fisheries were also recorded (USCG, 1988b, 1989b). The sac roe herring fishery was chosen for this special local program because it is the first fishery to open each year in the Alaskan panhandle and brings a large number of vessels into the principal southeast fishing ports. Between 150 and 250 boats were boarded annually; 244 vessels were boarded during the 1989 fishery. Over 61 percent of boardings detected one or more violations; however, a high incidence of compliance with Coast Guard requirements for lifesaving equipment was observed. Of 294 violations, only 20 were for personal flotation devices (PFDs) and 13 for fire extinguishers; most of the rest were associated with marine sanitation devices, incorrect installation and use of oily water separators (where required), and other environmental regulations (USCG, 1989b). A monitoring program for actual safety problems experienced during the fishery has not been established, so it is not apparent whether the program has had residual effects in reducing the incidence of casualties or fatalities. The number of violations decreased annually during the program's first 2 years as fishermen learned of it and prepared their vessels accordingly. The Coast Guard observed that over 90 percent of discrepancies recorded during the 1988 season had been corrected by the opening of the 1989 fishery. Additionally,
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program every vessel boarded in Sitka had sufficient immersion suits on board and at least one emergency position-indicating radio beacon. A similar program was conducted for Prince William Sound during spring 1988. A dockside boarding program was conducted over a 10-day period in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, also during 1988. The Coast Guard indicates that these programs will continue into the near future under special funding for Alaska-based fishing vessel safety projects. Similar programs for other regions are not funded. Because the Coast Guard has established the credibility of this local boarding program, it appears uniquely positioned to shift its emphasis to dockside boardings at central locations in advance of the fishery opening, should the Coast Guard choose to do so. This type of approach could lead to detection and correction of safety deficiencies and some savings in Coast Guard operating costs. Dockside safety seminars could also be attempted, such as practical instruction in donning immersion suits. If dockside safety inspection records were accepted as evidence of compliance with safety regulations in lieu of on-site verification while in transit or fishing, underway boardings could be reduced to levels necessary to ensure adherence to fisheries regulations and for correction of obvious safety deficiencies. This could reduce boarding times, minimizing inconvenience to the fishermen. SUMMARY Boardings do not appear to incorporate the kind of mutual cooperation and accountability for safety that might lead owners, operators, or crew to address safety as a continuing need that is in their self-interest rather than as an itemby-item checkoff on a list of federal requirements. Compliance examinations do not assess attitudes; fishing, navigational, safety, or survival skills; or, in all but the more obvious circumstances, the material condition of the vessel and machinery. At best, each boarding represents a “snapshot” of the vessel's compliance status with applicable federal laws and regulations at the time of boarding. Compliance by uninspected fishing vessels with Coast Guard regulations in place prior to June 1990 for onboard quantities of Coast Guard-approved safety and survival equipment appears high nationwide. However, boarding results do not necessarily reflect how well a vessel will comply with laws and regulations and with accessibility, maintenance, and use criteria for required equipment while not under direct Coast Guard observation, which is most of the time. As structured, underway boardings and compliance examinations do not appear to effectively improve safety attitudes and procedures that underlie the overwhelming number of vessel casualties, injuries, and fatalities. The Coast Guard has established a highly credible compliance program for the Sitka sac roe herring fishery, principally through extensive underway boardings. The heavy commitment of Coast Guard resources has resulted in
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program a steady decline in observed deficiencies in required safety equipment. An associated improvement in the overall safety status of examined vessels is a key objective. However, the actual effectiveness of the boarding program in promoting safety practices that prevent accidents or mitigate their effects has not been determined through performance monitoring.