The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a marine safety alert, highlighting the dangers of avoiding load line requirements. This warning comes after a recent marine casualty that resulted in the total loss of a crane barge, estimated at over $6 million.
The incident occurred approximately 18 miles offshore of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. The crane barge was being towed in calm weather conditions when it capsized due to major modifications to the barge arrangement and other conditions which compromised its seaworthiness. The barge was uncertificated without a load line, and the operator did not request a Single Voyage Load Line (SVLL) Exemption from any Coast Guard unit before transiting beyond the Boundary Line.
The Boundary Line, stipulated in 46 CFR Part 7, designates that non-load line vessels operating outside of it are subject to penalties and fines stipulated in 46 USC 5116. The vessel had also made multiple voyages outside the Boundary Line without a load line, violating U.S. statutory requirements and placing the vessel and crew at risk.
The Coast Guard warns that whether inspected or not, most commercial vessels 79 feet and longer are required to have a load line when operating outside the Boundary Line. The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessel owners and operators, and other relevant stakeholders, review vessel requirements for load lines as specified in 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Subchapter E parts 41 through 47, and further explained on the Coast Guard’s Load Line website and Load Line Policy Notes.
Owners and operators should engage early with local Coast Guard when considering submission for a SVLL exemption. This process is critical for non-load lined vessels to ensure the seaworthiness of the vessel (i.e., condition of the hull, integrity of closures, and satisfactory stability) for the duration of the intended voyage. Marine inspectors, investigators, and surveyors are also encouraged to maintain an acute awareness of these issues and initiate corrective actions, as needed.
The U.S. Coast Guard marine safety alert serves as a stark reminder of the risks involved in failing to adhere to load line regulations. The USCG urges vessel owners, operators, and other stakeholders to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of their crew and vessels when operating outside of the Boundary Line.
U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Alert 06-23, Avoiding Load Line Requirements, is now available on the Coast Guard’s Safety Alert site.
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