When crew are not crew, and other rules

Dec 8, 2022 by Dorie Cox

U.S. Coast Guard and customs officers clarified yacht and crew entry regulations during a Q&A panel discussion at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Rules and regulations are always a topic when captains and crew connect at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. That’s why officers from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gather to answer questions at the Marine Industries Association of South Florida’s speakers’ panel. This year, 11 officers addressed captains, crew, and industry professionals on topics that included:

Port state control

Officers are on the docks inspecting for port state control and some yachts have lapsed, not meeting time requirements, according to Kimberly Glore, chief of inspections with Sector Miami of the USCG. Yachts must update notices of arrival and departure with the USCG National Vessel Movement Center (nvmc.uscg.gov), and older workbooks are no longer valid as of Oct. 13 per U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 33 Part 160.

“We try to support people, but if you’re outside the window you have to go back out and then come back in,” Glore said. 

Another area of concern is yachts that do not have valid statutory certificates to sell the boat, she said.

Crew visas

Crew visas are a U.S. Department of State issue, but CBP, as the coordinator with arriving vessels, is also involved — especially when dealing with yacht crew who lack proper visas. Currently, the State Department faces delays in the adjudication of applications as the government workforce rebuilds after COVID. Even so, there are no blanket policies for recently expired visas, CBP officers said. 

They recommend knowing the local contact at your point of arrival and remembering that CBP cannot “pre-inspect” a crew member. While CBP officers aim to apply discretion and work with options that may be available, each situation must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. When crew arrive, CBP follows procedures with an inspection and can only determine if a discretionary exception is applicable at that time.

As for which visa crew should have, Patience Cohn, industry liaison with the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, said the State Department recommends that yacht crew ask for a combination of B and C-1/D visas. And crew should always check that they have been stamped in with the correct category.

CBP Officer Stephen Dearborn, with the Enforcement Programs Division of Admissibility and Passenger Programs, offered important advice for crew: If flying into a major airport, don’t get in the “crew” line, which is for commercial crew. Since yacht crew work for private vessels, they are inspected as a passenger, he said, noting that a B visa is a passenger-class visa. “They might think, ‘I am a crew member, so let me get into the crew line,’ but that is for the C/Ds,” he said. “Don’t get in that line!” 

And if a mistake is made on CBP’s part, he added, an I-94 correction can be done.

Cruising license, U.S. Foreign Trade Zone

No rule changes here, but a CBP reminder: Yachts with a cruising license can’t be engaged in trade anywhere, and a yacht sale can’t be completed while in zone status in a U.S. Foreign Trade Zone.

Russian yachts

The U.S. government continues to clarify the application of sanctions on certain Russian assets — however, there should be no issue with the entry of Russian crew because restrictions are on yachts, not on people. “If you are admissible, we will admit you,” CBP Officer Dearborn said. 

Food purge

Several attendees asked for clarification on regulated waste and international garbage when yachts are boarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The laws require proper disposal of certain meats, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and garbage aboard vessels when arriving in the U.S. The discussion brought to light that some entry points do not offer proper garbage removal services and there are inconsistencies between enforcement and ports. CBP officers said they would work toward standardization.

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Bottom line: Sign in and out 

“We always need to know when you’re coming,” said CBP Officer Dearborn when asked how yachts can better meet regulations. “That’s always important. That’s where it all starts.” 

Notice of arrivals must be registered and all vessels can use the CBP ROAM (reporting offsite arrival – mobile) app, he said.

If flying into a major airport, don’t get in the “crew” line, which is for commercial crew. You might think, “I am a crew member, so let me get into the crew line,” but that is for the C/D visas only. Don’t get in that line!

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

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