OUPV / Six Pack Captains License Course

SAFETY - Environmental & Maritime Law


Oil Pollution, Environmental Protection and Maritime Law

The United States Coast Guard enforces oil pollution vigorously.  A sheen on the water is pollution.  Sinking and dispersing agents are prohibited because they are harmful to sea life.  Small spills are cumulative.  An oily mixture is 100 parts per million.  Never pump oil except to a shore tank.  Oil spills can destroy or limit the growth of marine life and ruin the homes of wildlife that live in or near the water.  Any person in charge of a vessel or facility that discharges oil is in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and is required to notify the Coast Guard’s National Response Center at 800-424-8802 as soon as the person has knowledge of the spill.  This notification number can be found on nautical charts.  The penalty for illegal discharge is a civil penalty of up to $125,000.  Failure to notify the Coast Guard of a discharge is punishable by a criminal penalty or fines or up to 5 years imprisonment or both.  The owner or operator of the source of the discharge is also liable for all removal costs.  Oil placards are required on vessel over 26 feet placed in the engine room or near the bilge controls.  Garbage placards are also required.

Oil pollution placards and emergency placards need to be in place on the boat.

Environmental & Maritime Law

Pollution regulations are found in CFR 33.  On December 31, 1988, a new federal law took effect prohibiting all vessels in U.S. waters from discharging plastics at sea.  This new law, the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act (MPPRCA) implements an international treaty known as MARPOL.  Plastic includes but is not limited to plastic bags, styrofoam, ropes, nets, lines, and biodegradable plastics.  Vessels 40’ or more that are engaged in commerce or are equipped with a galley and berthing are required to have a written waste management plan.  It is illegal to dump all trash within three nautical miles of shore and anywhere in lakes, rivers and sounds.  From 3-12 nautical miles from shore it is illegal to dump plastic, dunnage, and all other trash if it is not ground to less than 1”.  From 12-25 nautical miles offshore it is illegal to dump plastic, dunnage, and lining and packing materials that float.  More than 25 nautical miles offshore it is illegal to dump plastic.

Marine Sanitation Devices

The Clean Water Act requires all vessels operating in the U.S. territorial waters (generally within three miles of shore) with installed toilets must be equipped with a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD).  A Type I device is certified to treat sewage with disinfectant chemicals before discharging into the water.  A Type II MSD provides a higher level of sewage treatment.  A Type III MSD does not allow the discharge of sewage and contains a holding tank.
Every manufacturer of Coast Guard treatment marine sanitation devices must affix a certification label on the device.  The label should show the name of the manufacturer, the name and model number of the device, the month and year of manufacturer, the marine sanitation device type, a certificate number, and certification statement.  A Type III holding tanks will not be labeled, but will be considered Coast Guard Certified if they are used to store sewage and flushwater only and they operate at ambient air temperature and pressure.  The holding tank must have enough reserve capacity to retain the waters generated while the vessel is operating in waters where discharge of raw sewage is prohibited.  When a vessel operates outside the U.S. Territorial waters, more than three miles offshore, untreated sewage from installed toilets may be discharged overboard.  However, if a vessel has installed toilets and operates in the U.S. Territorial waters, then it must be equipped with a certified Marine Sanitation Device.  Locking the overboard valve does not render the system permanently inoperable.  Portable systems (port-a-potties) are self-contained and therefore are not considered to be installed facilities.
Vessels 65 feet in length or under may install Type I, II or III devices.  Vessels over 65 feet in length must install a Type II or III Marine Sanitation Device. 

Maritime Law

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains all of the rules regarding requirements for vessels and seamen.

Vessels under 5 net tons must have a Certificate of Number and State numbers on the hull (33CFR173).

Vessels 5 net tons or over, engaged in Coastwise Trade on the navigational waters of the U.S. must have a Certificate of Documentation with a “Coastwise” endorsement, not a “Recreational” endorsement (46CFR67).

Documented vessels must be marked with the official number, name, and hailing port (46CFR67)

Each uninspected vessel carrying not more than six paying passengers must be under the direction and control of an individual licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard (46CFR15.605).  The operator’s license must be onboard and available (46CFR26.20-1).

Each vessel carrying passengers for hire must have at least one Type I Personal Floatation Device (PFD) for each person onboard (46CFR25.25-5c) and the PFD must be readily accessible (46CFR25.25-9).  Each PFD must have retroreflective material (46CFR25.25.15).  A Ring Life Buoy is an additional requirement for vessels 26’ or more (46CFR25.25-5d).  PFD Lights are required for ocean, coastwise, or Great Lakes voyages (46CFR25.25-13).
The number and size of visual distress signals and fire extinguishers required varies by size of vessel and other factors (33CFR175.101-140) and (46CFR25.30).

In any vessel carrying passengers for hire, the operator in charge shall ensure that both suitable public announcements and instructive placards are provided in a manner which affords all passengers the opportunity to become acquainted with stowage locations of life preservers, proper method of donning a PFD, the location and contents of the Emergency Check off List and the type and location of all lifesaving devices carried on the vessel prior to getting underway (46CFR26.03).  The Chemical testing Program provides for all required reports and records, including those following marine incidents

The Master or person in charge shall ensure that the required pollution and garbage placards are displayed in prominent locations and in sufficient numbers (33CFR151).  Each uninspected vessel must meet this garbage discharge and waste management plan including maintaining records (33CFR151).
Vessels 20 meters or more must carry a radiotelephone (33CFR26.03).

The U.S. Coast Guard must “inspect” and “certify” certain commercial vessels and ensure that they are sufficiently manned for the services in which they are employed.  This inspection for compliance of regulations occurs on a regular schedule, usually once a year.  The Coast Guard issues a Certificate of Inspection (COI) to these vessels to verify that they have been inspected according to federal regulations and were found to comply with those regulations.  Vessels carrying more than six passengers for hire or freight must be inspected.  The manning requirements of each inspected vessel, which is listed on the COI, establishes the size and qualifications of the crew the vessel must legally carry. 

The U.S. Coast Guard does not inspect vessels carrying six or fewer passengers for hire, but the operator must hold a valid Coast Guard license.  Towing vessels 300 gross tons or less do not need to be inspected, as well as fishing industry vessels under 200 gross tons.  Recreational vessels do not need Certificates of Inspection.

Practical Exercise:  Familiarize yourself with the Code of Federal Regulations Publications.