On January 23, 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to update the monetary property damage threshold amount for reporting a marine casualty from the current level of $25,000 to $72,000. The NPRM further proposes to update the threshold for serious marine incidents requiring post-incident drug and alcohol testing from the current level of $100,000 to $200,000.
Under the current regulations, owners, operators, and masters must report marine casualties that, among other things, involve property damage in excess of $25,000, including the cost of labor and material. However, that amount has remained unchanged since the 1980s, with the result that vessels have had to reporting increasingly minor casualties. The Coast Guard anticipates that adjusting the dollar level to its 2015 equivalent of $72,000 would save approximately 316 reports per year.
Likewise, the current regulatory definition of a “serious marine incident”—intended to encompass truly serious casualties such as those involving the loss of a vessel, death or serious injury to personnel, or discharges of 10,000 gallons of oil—also includes damage to property in excess of $100,000. That amount has stayed the same since 1988, and is no longer an equivalent to the other types of serious marine incidents. Because commercial vessel mariners involved in a “serious marine incident” must undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing, the failure of the regulations to keep pace with inflation has meant that mariners have been subjected to mandatory testing for increasingly less serious incidents. The proposed adjustment of the threshold to incidents involving over $200,000 in damage would update the definition to match the regulatory intent.
The Coast Guard has invited interested persons to submit comments on the NPRM by March 24, 2017.