The Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) has published CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-03, “Covered Small Passenger Vessel” Fire Safety Interim Rule Implementation, which clarifies Coast Guard authorities and interpretations of several regulatory changes promulgated in the interim rule titled, Fire Safety of Small Passenger Vessels, published December 27, 2021 (86 FR 73160).
The interim rule implemented fire safety regulations for “covered small passenger vessels,” defined as small passenger vessels with overnight accommodations for passengers or operating on an oceans or coastwise route, excluding fishing vessels and ferries. In particular, the interim rule eliminated the option for “existing vessels” (as defined in 46 CFR subchapters K and T) to comply with the means of escape requirements applicable to them on March 10, 1996, bringing all covered small passenger vessels, regardless of age, up to current standards for means of escape design and arrangement.
The new policy addresses means of escape, special consideration by the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection, and excursion permits for covered small passenger vessels.
A copy of CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-03 is available on CG-CVC’s website, at https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Inspections-Compliance-CG-5PC-/Commercial-Vessel-Compliance/CG-CVC-Policy-Letters/.
Vessel owners or operators should contact their local marine inspection office with vessel-specific questions (directory). General questions may be submitted via CGCVC@uscg.mil.