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Coast Guard Revises
Marine Casualty Reporting

May 2006 Work Boat
Reprinted with the permission of Work Boat Magazine

By Tim Akpinar

In January, the U.S. Coast Guard expanded the regulations for reporting marine casualties. With the new rules,
“significant harm to the environment” has become a reportable marine casualty category. Previously, there were only
four categories: death of an individual, serious injury to an individual, material loss of property, or material damage
affecting the seaworthiness of a vessel.

In addition, the new regulations require foreign-flag oil tankers to report all casualties within the 200-mile exclusive
economic zone (but beyond U.S. navigable waters - 3 miles), when they involve material damage that affects the
seaworthiness or efficiency of the vessel, or results in significant harm to the environment.

According to federal regulations, a discharge resulting in "significant harm to the environment" within the navigable
waters of the United States means a discharge of oil as set forth in 40 CFR 110.3, or a discharge of hazardous substances
in quantities equal to or exceeding, in any 24 hour period, the reportable quantity determined in 40 CFR 117; or in
waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States (including the 200 mile exclusive economic zone), a discharge of oil
in excess of the quantities permitted in 33 CFR 151.10 or 151.13, or a discharge of noxious liquid substances in bulk in
violation of sections 151.1126 or 153.1128.

In waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States (including the EEZ), this can include probable discharges of oil,
hazardous substances, marine pollutants, or noxious liquid substances. Factors to be considered in determining whether
a discharge is probable include ship location and proximity to land or other navigational hazards, weather, current, sea
state, traffic density, nature of damage to the vessel, and failure or breakdown aboard a vessel, its machinery, or

Initially, verbal notice of a casualty is required. It includes the nature and extent of injuries, and property damage. A
written report must then be filed within five days, along with a report of chemical, drug, and alcohol testing.

Another Coast Guard regulation, scheduled to take effect on June 20th will require alcohol testing within two hours of a
serious marine accident. As a result, alcohol-testing kits will become standard equipment aboard commercial vessels.

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