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FLIBS19: USCG, CBP address yacht issues

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By Dorie Cox

Surrounded by millions of dollars worth of yachts for sale, officers from several U.S. governmental agencies explained how to maintain compliance of those yachts after they are sold. 

Four officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and three officers with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) were on board the M/V Grand Floridian to answer questions Saturday at a captain and crew lunch. The Marine Industries Association of South Florida has organized this event during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show for the past five years.

An increase in the number of vessels without a valid Non-Tank Vessel Response Plan and/or a valid Certificate of Financial Responsibility caused the USCG to issue a Marine Safety and Information Bulletin (MSIB) in May. At issue is the fact that approval of proper documentation takes time. New plans must be approved at least 60 days before the vessel is intended to operate in U.S. waters, while revised or amended plans require at least 30 days.

“Mariners need to plan for these timelines,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Briggs, chief of inspections with the USCG. “It’s first in and first out.”

At this point, failure to show a plan to mitigate and respond to an oil spill when submitting an Advanced Notice of Arrival can lead to denial of entry into the U.S. And failure to comply can result in a civil penalty of $47,353 against the owner or operator, according to the bulletin.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Coast Guard answered questions during captain and crew lunch held during the show yesterday. Photo by Dorie Cox

On a positive note, the officers stressed that each department’s goal is to help yacht captains, crew and businesses  succeed, and to make the process easier. For example, CBP is investing in facial recognition technology, said Michael Silva, public affairs officer.

“You’ll be able to travel from reservation to destination just with the face,” he said. A mariner’s I-94 status is available, and can be printed, from the U.S. CBP website at www.cbp.gov.

Passenger and crew processing has not changed with CBP, and the agency continues to make the Reporting Offsite Arrival – Mobile (ROAM) app easier to use, said Paul Shoupe, chief of Port Everglades Seaport. From the audience, several mariners pointed out that phone calls are still required in different districts and recommended coastwise vessel movement be added to the app.

CBP has noticed a 50% decrease in denials for cruising licenses, according to John Ortiz, Port Everglades trade operations supervisor. He said that the decrease is “in part due to informed mariners and that we work with the community.” 

“We don’t get check marks to deny,” Ortiz said. “We try to approve them.”

It is helpful to remember that it is a supervisor and a chief, not the officer on duty, who make the final decisions, he said.

Since the USCG is responsible for a large area of water, it’s in the department’s interest to facilitate travel in U.S. waters, said Cmdr. Jose Perez, sector Miami chief of prevention.

“With coverage 12 miles out, that’s a long range,” Cmdr. Perez said. “We don’t want violations, mariners to remain out, or to deny entry. We prefer prevention.”

In an effort to prevent problems, such as illegal bareboat charters, the department hosts community outreach events each month, he said.

Officers said they are listening and hope to go back to their departments to help find solutions to several issues.

“We’re taking notes,” Cmdr. Perez said. 

To help officers resolve some of the issues brought in the session, Silva recommended that mariners officially register their concerns through comments and correspondence.

Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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