MANNING ON UNINSPECTED TOWING VESSELS - PART II   (Fall 88)

by Captain Kirk Greiner, USCG (Ret)

Manning of towing vessels continues to be confusing to many. In the first article on this subject in the last issue of THE EXPERT, the manning of licensed and unlicensed deck personnel was discussed. This article will follow up with a discussion of engineers on towing vessels. Though it probably need not be repeated, it should be recognized that inadequate manning usually makes a vessel unseaworthy and should an accident occur, the Pennsylvania rule would place a great burden on the defendants to overcome the presumption of unseaworthiness.

Under 200 gross tons. It is common and acceptable on vessels under 200 gross tons to use an unlicensed person as the person in charge of the mechanical propulsion. There is no statutory or regulatory requirement to have such a person but it is prudent on other than very short inland voyages. If the vessel is 100 gross tons or more and operated on waters other than rivers and lakes, this person must be the holder of a merchant mariners document. Such document must be endorsed in any engineering rating.

200 gross tons and greater but less than 300 gross tons. On vessels of 200 gross tons or more operating on the high seas (outside the Boundary Lines), the Officer Competency Certificates Convention applies. This was ratified in 1938. It is now codified in 46 USC 8304. Unfortunately some of the definitions from the Convention were not codified and so one must go to the Convention itself or the regulations issued by the Coast Guard to seek definitions of the terms used in the Code.

This section of the Code which applies only to vessels 200 gross tons or more, requires all persons engaged or employed as an officer including engineers, to hold a license. The question is, "who is an engineer" to which this requirement applies?

Two definitions in the Convention are relevant. Article 2, section (b) states " 'Chief engineer' means any person permanently responsible for the mechanical propulsion of a vessel." Section (c) states, " 'engineer officer in charge of a watch' means any person who for the time being is actually in charge of the running of a vessel's engines."

Thus an "engineer" for the purposes of the Code is a person who is either in charge of the propulsion machinery or the senior watchstanding engineer of each watch. Where no engineering watches are stood, the "person engaged or employed to perform the duties of chief engineer . . . must hold an appropriate license authorizing service as chief engineer." (46 CFR 820(b))

The Coast Guard incorporated these definitions in its regulations. 46 CFR 157.10-10 contained the definition of "assistant engineer" which was similar but by no means identical to the Convention. "Chief Engineer" was defined in 46 CFR 157.10-15 which was very similar to the Convention definition. However, these definitions were repealed in December 1987 and replaced by 46 CFR 15.301 (see FR 10/16/87 Part IV) which refers the reader to the definitions in 46 CFR 10.103. Here, "Chief Engineer" is defined as:

Any person responsible for the mechanical propulsion of a vessel and who is the holder of a valid license as chief engineer.

"First Assistant Engineer" is defined as:

The engineer officer next in seniority to the chief engineer and upon whom the responsibility for the mechanical propulsion of the vessel will fall in the event of the incapacity of the chief engineer.

"Assistant Engineer" is defined as:

a qualified officer in the engine department.

A new category or definition of "Designated Duty Engineer" appears in these new regulations and is defined as:

A qualified engineer, who may be the sole engineer on vessels with a periodically unattended engine room.

46 CFR 10.524 explains the "designated engineer" further. The holder of this license is limited to vessels of not more than 500 gross tons.

Thus, a the holder of a "designated duty engineer" license could serve as chief engineer or fill any other engineering officer duty on any tug under 500 gross tons. 46 CFR 15.915

In inland waters (other than the Great Lakes), there is no requirement for an engineer officer on any uninspected vessel.

Vessels 300 gross tons and over. All seagoing towing vessels 300 gross tons and over are inspected. The requirements for manning are thus set by the Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection who will place such manning requirements on the Certificate of Inspection.

A word of caution, the Coast Guard will be publishing Final Rules on manning shortly which will modify the Interim Final Rules. It is understood that there will be some modification of the engineering license requirements and we will advise our readers of those changes in the next issue.

Concurrent deck and engineer duties. In one recent civil case, a licensed deck officer required to stand a deck watch on a voyage over 12 hours (there was only one other licensed deck officer) was also assigned as the sole person responsible for the maintenance of the machinery. 46 USC 8104(e)(1) states "On a vessel designated by subsection . . . (d) of this section [vessels over 100 gross tons], a seaman may not be engaged to work alternatively in the deck and engine departments . . ."

Under this restriction, may a licensed tug operator serve as operator, standing a deck watch, and as engineer, responsible for and maintaining the engineroom equipment? More specifically, is a licensed operator a "seaman" to which the prohibition in 46 USC 8104 quoted above applies?

Coast Guard manning regulations in effect until December 1, 1987 defined a seaman for the purpose of manning in 46 CFR 157.10-70 thus;

The term 'seaman' is defined in R.S. 4612, as amended (46 USC 713), as follows: "Every person (apprentice excepted) who shall be employed or engaged to serve in any capacity on board the same (vessel) shall be deemed and taken to be a 'seaman.'"

46 USC 713 was repealed in 1983 and replaced by 46 USC 10101. The definition of seaman remained essentially the same with respect to tug operators.

On December 1, 1987, 46 CFR 157 was repealed and replaced by 46 CFR 15 [see Federal Register Part IV, dated October 16, 1987] which no longer contains the definition of "seaman". However, since the law remains essentially the same, the definition can be said to remain unchanged and still applies as it did in the previous manning regulations.

The Coast Guard states that generally, "seaman" as used in 46 USC 8104 includes all individuals employed or engaged on board a vessel who contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission.

Thus, a licensed officer serving as operator on a tug over 100 gross tons which does not operate solely on rivers, harbors, lakes (except Great Lakes), bays, sounds, bayous, and canals, may not perform duties as a deck watch officer and an engineer. To do so, is a violation of 46 USC 8104 (e)(1).

A postscript to the article on manning in the last issue, a certain percentage of the unlicensed individuals carried in the deck department of seagoing tugs over 100 GT must be AB's. AB's and ordinary seamen who perform day work are generally considered to be in the deck crew.

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