Coast Guard Sets March 5 Meeting on AIS Rule

The U.S. Coast Guard will hold a public meeting March 5 in Washington, D.C., to take comments about its current proposed rule that would 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 would expand AIS requirements to all U.S. navigable waters and mandate electronic submission of notices of arrival and departure. Written comments on the rule are due by April 15, and the agency has scheduled this meeting to get additional comments. The meeting will take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m., at the Coast Guard Headquarters Building, Room 2415, 2100 2nd Street SW, Washington, DC 20593. Contact Lieutenant Sharmine Jones in the Office of Vessel Activities at Sharmine.N.Jones@uscg.mil or 202-372-1234 for additional information.

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 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 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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