AIS Carriage - New USCG Proposal

On December 16, 2008, the US Coast Guard issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would, if eventually adopted, make significant changes to the AIS carriage requirement (as well as to the notice of arrival and departure requirements). First, domestic vessels could only utilize AIS equipment that has been type-approved by the Coast Guard. Second, the regulations would be restated so as to clarify the requirement that the AIS be properly installed and operated using guidelines set forth by IMO Safety of Navigation Circulars (SN/Circ.) 227, 236,244, and 245 and Resolution A.917(22). This requirement effectively makes mandatory for numerous domestic vessels a series of voluntary international standards. Failure to follow those IMO guidelines would constitute a USCG regulatory violation and might have significant consequences in the event of a marine casualty.

Currently, the AIS carriage requirement for domestic vessels is largely limited to self-propelled commercial vessels of 65 feet or more in length engaged on an international voyage or operating in a designated VTS area. This will greatly change under the Coast Guard proposal. The VTS area provision will be eliminated, along with the international voyage provision. Also eliminated would be the blanket exemption for fishing vessels.

Under the proposal, the following domestic vessels would be required to have onboard a properly installed, operational, Coast Guard type-approved AIS:

(1) A self-propelled vessel of 65 feet or more in length, engaged in commercial service;
(2) A towing vessel of 26 feet or more in length and more than 600 horsepower, engaged in commercial service;
(3) A self-propelled vessel carrying 50 or more passengers, engaged in commercial service;
(4) A vessel carrying more than 12 passengers for hire and capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots;
(5) A dredge or floating plant engaged in or near a commercial channel or shipping fairway in operations likely to restrict or affect navigation of other vessels (except for an unmanned or intermittently manned floating plant under the control of a dredge); and
(6) A self-propelled vessel carrying or engaged in the movement of certain dangerous cargoes (CDC).

Domestic vessels, for the most part, could utilize either the Coast Guard type-approved AIS Class A or Class B equipment, but use of Class B equipment is not recommended for vessels that are highly maneuverable, navigate at high speed, or routinely operate on or near very congested waterways or in close-quarter situations with other AIS equipped vessels. Certain domestic vessels would not, though, be allowed to utilize Class B equipment. The more restrictive requirement of Class A equipment would apply to the following domestic vessels: