COI Subchapter T Vessel with No Passengers

This question was posed by a colleague yesterday - can a Subchapter T vessel NOT carrying any passengers for hire (running light) operate outside of her COI requirements? Must have required crew credentials and count? Must follow waters limitations?

For example, let’s say the boat needs to move to a shipyard outside of the defined waters. Or just to proceed to a fuel dock. The boat has a COI already so Permit to Proceed does not apply.

This is somewhat similar to commercial aircraft where ground personnel can be qualified to taxi a plane to a hangar.

I found a related post herein regarding the dockside dinners but that’s it. And of course this is not an insurance question, that’s a different topic. I find nothing in the CFRs on this topic. I’m curious what the real answer is regs-wise, other than duct tape across the decal, or “just call the OCMI” and get their position statement.

Thoughts welcome.

I think your answer is in 46 CFR 15.515

§ 15.515 Compliance with certificate of inspection.

(a) Except as provided by § 15.725 of this part, no vessel may be navigated unless it has in its service and onboard the crew complement required by the COI.

(b) Any time passengers are embarked on a passenger vessel, the vessel must have the crew complement required by the COI, whether the vessel is underway, at anchor, made fast to shore, or aground. However, the master may allow reduced crew for limited or special operating conditions subject to the approval of the OCMI.

(c) No vessel subject to inspection under 46 U.S.C. 3301 will be navigated unless it is under the direction and control of an individual who holds an appropriate license or officer endorsement on his or her MMC

Yes it has to have the minimum crew specified on the COI. So if it’s 1 Captain and 2 deckhands, then that’s what’s required. Can you do it with just one deckhand and not get caught, sure probably. Can you do it with zero deckhands when the COI calls for two? Absolutely not, if you value your safety.

As a practical matter, you do what the USCG inspectors call “turning the certificate to the wall.” Actually, the COI should be taken ashore, but do NOT surrender the certificate to the USCG. Then the vessel operates as an uninspected vessel on the voyage outside its normal area.

This is routinely done on vessels that operate on limited routes in the North in the Summer, but operate on limited routes in the South in the winter. For example: an “inland” route in Cape Cod Bay during the summer, and a limited coastwise route in the Virgin Islands in the winter. The boats must travel an ocean route to get back and forth. They do it twice a year.

Talk to you local USCG inspector who you know on a first name basis about what you are going to be doing. Write to your local OCMI about your plans. Try to get a response in writing. Also, give the OCMI in the other area that you are returning to a heads up that you will be resuming operations in his area. There will probably be a limited deck inspection before you can start carrying passengers again in the new area.

Your good relationship with your local inspector and the OCMI in the North goes a long way toward solving problems in the South. Particularly, if the OCMIs were classmates at the Coast Guard Academy.

That was my firsthand experience a few years ago. Secondhand, I’m told by people still doing it that not much has changed.

A small T-Boat like a head boat may be able to get a 6-Pack endorsement added to the COI. That lets you sail with just a captain if you have 6 or fewer passengers. But that will depend on the size of the boat and the local OCMI.

tugsailor’s post makes sense to me but it spurs a followup query regarding the required license to be held by the captain of the ocean move in this example, which I think was referenced or at least alluded to in the OP.

Presumably a captain licensed for ocean routes would be required to make the ocean transit, correct? A possible exception to this being an owner/operator who despite having a license limited to inland waters could move his own vessel when the COI is “turned to the wall” since at that point he would essentially be moving a recreational vessel for no compensation. Do I understand that correctly?

I don’t think so legally. For example, AFAIK yacht delivery (and private yacht operations where the only ‘passengers’ aren’t paying so aren’t legally passengers) can be done by anyone, no license required. When it’s being delivered it isn’t operating commercially or carrying passengers, it doesn’t matter if the crew is being paid.

The vessel’s insurance company may have something to say about required licenses though.

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No license is required for vessels Not carrying passengers or freight under 300 GRT or for fishing vessels under 200 GRT.

In most cases the ocean delivery will be done by an owner that may not have any license at all, the regular Captain (without an oceans license) or a hired delivery captain that probably has some sort of license.

Insurance companies don’t tell unlicensed owners that they cannot run their own boat. That would be bad marketing. The regular Captain or a delivery Captain with some sort of license will probably be acceptable to most insurance companies.

I stand corrected. Thanks.

Tugsailor is perfectly correct regarding deliveries. I do them regularly and no license is required if no paying passengers aboard. As the original OP, still curious what the deal is on running a light boat one mile to the fuel dock. I guess it will be a question for the OCMI. Unfortunately I’m Academy Class of '81 and all my classmates are retired! :slightly_smiling_face:

It happens all the time in my harbor. Some of the Inspected passenger vessels I’ve worked on have 3 mile COIs that limit them to the harbor. Unfortunately we don’t have any real yards left here so these boats have always steamed to different ports for drydock inspections. The CG inspectors has never questioned anyone about this. As far as I’m concerned it’s a non issue as long as the vessel is properly crewed and not carrying any passengers or cargo. Almost all the inspected passenger vessels including the T boats are steamed outside of their COI areas of operations for dry dock inspections. There is a waver you can get for at least for a sub T boat to allow you to use it as a recreational vessel as well. Say you own a 50 passenger inspected sub chapter T boat with a 3 mile COI and you want to take a few of your friends out fishing offshore you can operate it outside your boundaries and even without a Licensed master. Obviously this negagats your status as an inspected passenger vessel and when operating under said waver you must follow the recreational rules such as all children under 13 must wear a PFD when on deck.