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Coast Guard Expanding Automatic ID System Requirements

The U.S. Coast Guard published a notice of proposed rulemaking yesterday that will expand the number of U.S. commercial vessels that must have automatic identification systems (AIS) and those to which notice of arrival requirements apply. The proposal also will expand AIS requirements to all U.S. navigable waters and mandate electronic submission of notices of arrival and departure. The Coast Guard said it will take comments on the NPRM until April 15, 2009.

The proposed changes will improve navigation safety, enhance the Coast Guard's ability to identify and track vessels, and heighten overall maritime domain awareness against potential threats, USCG said.

The changes update temporary and interim rules that have been in place since shortly after 9/11. In this NPRM, the agency proposes that any vessel moving certain dangerous cargo (CDC) be required to carry AIS because of the unique risk the movement of such cargo poses to the marine transportation system. The Coast Guard's definition of CDC includes ammonium nitrate in bulk; ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers in bulk; and propylene oxide, alone or mixed with ethylene oxide, in bulk.

The NPRM will require AIS on dredges or floating plants near commercial channels because these vessels pose a unique challenge to navigation. The Coast Guard in 2003 exempted vessels under 65 feet that carry up to 150 passengers for hire, and also fishing vessels, from the AIS requirements. But now, it will require AIS on fishing vessels of 65 feet or more and on vessels carrying 50 or more passengers. "We propose to omit the distinction of 'for hire' because we believe all passengers, whether paying or not, are subject to a similar safety risk and thus deserve the navigation safety and maritime security benefit afforded to them by AIS," the agency said in the NPRM.

Owners, agents, masters, operators, or persons in charge of vessels must file notices of arrival 96 hours before the vessels enter a U.S. port. Once the rule is in effect, both types of notice will be required from all foreign commercial vessels departing to or coming from a port or place in the United States and all U.S. commercial vessels coming to a U.S. port or place from a foreign port.

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