The U.S. Coast Guard’s Inspections and Compliance Directorate has issued a marine safety information bulletin to warn mariners of a growing number of bulk carriers arriving in the U.S. with wind turbine parts stowed in a way that significantly limits visibility from the navigation bridge.
The bulletin, numbered 04-23, advises that many of these vessels were given dispensation letters by their flag administration or recognized organization that temporarily exempted them from compliance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974 Chapter V, Regulation 22, which specifies requirements for navigation bridge visibility standards.
Despite the dispensation, some of these vessels are intended to pass through restricted navigational channels and congested inland waterways, raising concerns about the safety implications of the exemption.
The Coast Guard says it should be noted that dispensation letters from flag administrations or recognized organizations do not relieve vessels from corresponding U.S. requirements on navigation bridge visibility set out in Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 164.15.
The Coast Guard is reminding operators of vessels that do not comply with U.S. regulations for navigation bridge visibility to notify the local Coast Guard Sector before entering U.S. waters and request to deviate from the rule.
Under 33 CFR 164.55, the Captain of the Port (COTP) may grant a deviation from the rule if the deviation will not impair the vessel’s safe navigation under anticipated conditions and will not violate the rules for preventing collisions at sea. However, the Coast Guard has clarified that deviations are not typically granted for situations intentionally counter to the regulations or solely for convenience or financial incentive.
The Coast Guard has urged vessel owners, operators, flag administrations, and recognized organizations to ensure adequate voyage planning, including appropriate cargo stowage arrangements and verifying that the vessel complies with all mandatory rules and regulations.
The Coast Guard has also emphasized that failure to comply with U.S. regulations for navigation bridge visibility may result in the COTP issuing a COTP Order or taking other appropriate actions in accordance with their authorities.
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