UNINSPECTED PASSENGER VESSEL MANNING REQUIREMENTS (Spring 93)

There has been increased interest in the requirements for uninspected passenger vessels (UPV), i.e. 6-packs, operating and manning requirements throughout the United States. This interest resulted in the review of statutes and regulations which apply to UPVs.

ANSWER TO COMMON QUESTIONS

1. CAN THE OPERATOR OF A UPV SLEEP WHILE UNDERWAY?

The answer is NO, unless there is a second licensed operator on watch. A particular case in question concerned an operator and a deckhand operating 2-3 day offshore fishing trips. The deckhand would operate the vessel at night while the operator slept.

46 U. S. C. 8903 requires that a UPV be operated by an individual licensed by the Coast Guard. 46 C.F.R. 15.605 requires each self-propelled UPV to be under the "direction and control" of a licensed individual. Regardless of how close the operator is sleeping to the wheelhouse (even within), a licensed individual asleep can never be considered to be exercising "direction and control" of the vessel as intended by the regulations. The intent of the law and regulation is that the vessel must be under the physical control or direct supervision of a licensed individual.

2. CAN A UPV BE OPERATED MORE THAN 12 HOURS WITH ONLY ONE LICENSED OPERATOR ON BOARD?

The answer to this question is YES, as long as it is not a requirement of the job that the operator work more than 12 hours.46 U. S.C. 8104 (b) provides that licensed individuals on oceangoing or coastwise vessels of not more than 100 gross tons "may not be required" to work more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period while at sea, except in an emergency when life or property are endangered. Licensed individuals serving as Operators of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) may however VOLUNTARILY work more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period.

The underling issue within this question is what is considered an adequate watch for safe operation? While it is allowed for the OUPV to work more than 12 hours, he or she must maintain an adequate watch, per 46 CFR 15,601 and 15.705. If the OUPV becomes too fatigued to stand an alert watch, then that individual could be charged with negligence for failure to maintain an adequate watch. While there may be individuals who can work for periods in excess of 12 consecutive hours, most mariners will agree that watch standing at sea is extremely tiring beyond that period. The OCMI is left to decide the prudence of operating a vessel between 12 and 24 consecutive hours. Voyages in excess of 24 hours with only one licensed operator are a dangerous practice that raises significant issues of negligence on the part of the OUPV and owner for failure to provide an adequate watch.

Marine Safety Office, Portland, OR strongly recommends that if your operation is going to exceed 12 hours, you should have at least two licensed individuals assigned to prevent fatigue. When a sole licensed OUPV is assigned to a vessel and is found to be unfit to maintain an adequate watch due to fatigue, or allows an unlicensed seaman to control the vessel while the OUPV sleeps, AGAINST THE WILL BE TAKEN AGAINST THE OUPV'S LICENSE. Additionally, civil penalty action will be taken directly against the vessel's owner.

Reprinted from the USCG Marine Safety Office, Portland, OR undated newsletter spring 1993.

Ed. NOTE -Needless to say, violations of these standards could effect civil liability in death or injury cases.

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