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7 1 Introduction The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has safety regulatory jurisdiction over vessels registered in the United States. One of its oldest regulatory functions is to ensure these ships, boats, and other floating vessels remain upright as they encounter both anticipated and unexpected loading, operat ing, and weather conditions, including wind and wave conditions and unexpected failure of the watertight integrity. The USCG has made major changes to its stability regulations over the past 30 years, most notably by con- solidating most of the regulations in a single subchapterâSubchapter S of Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations (46 CFR) Chapter I. As a signatory to SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea), the USCG applies SOLAS damage stability regulations and intact stabilityâor IS Code (Intact Stability Code)âto U.S. flag vessels with inter national certificates. Stability standards have been improved over time in response to casualties and through advances in technical understanding and computational technology. The USCG remains keenly interested in ensuring that the regulations are kept updated based on the latest technical knowledge, well aligned with international standards, and organized and presented in a manner that facilitates compliance. This interest extends to the regulations that pertain to vessel stability in other parts and subparts of 46 CFR Chapter I (in addi- tion to Subchapter S) and in the many policy and guidance documents that the USCG has issued that interpret and elaborate on stability requirements, such as policy letters, navigation inspection circulars, and safety manuals. The USCG earlier commissioned a National Academies of Sciences, Engineeri ng, and Medicine (the National Academies) study to identify options
8 USCG VESSEL STABILITY REGULATIONS AND GUIDANCE for improving the vessel stability regulations contained in Subchapter S. After receiving the letter report from that study in September 2018, the USCG asked for this second study. This chapter provides a summary of the main findings from the first phase of the study, discusses the charge for this second phase of the study, and describes the organization of this report. PHASE 1 STUDY SUMMARY In 2017, per the request of the USCGâs Office of Design and Engineering Standards, a National Academies study committee was formed to review the USCGâs vessel stability regulations and related policy and guidance documents to identify options for improving their accuracy, clarity, consis- tency, and usability by vessel designers, classification societies, operators, and inspectors. The study committeeâs letter report, issued in Septem- ber 2018, contains a series of recommended options for improving vessel stability regulations in Subchapter S, including options that could be pur- sued quickly because they do not require formal regulatory changes as well as options that would require formal rulemaking, and therefore take more time to implement.1 In particular, the study committee recommended that USCG: â¢ Establish a process for the continuous review and update of regula- tions in consultation with internal and external parties prior to any rulemaking initiative as a way to obtain feedback from key users of the regulations. â¢ Consolidate existing USCG stability policy decisions into a single database that is available online and searchable. This would entail a review of all stability-related policy documents to determine if they are valid, consistent with other policy documentation, require updating, or could be incorporated into a higher-level document. â¢ Commence a longer-term regulatory project that proposes funda- mental organizational changes to the stability regulations with the goal of improving their clarity, harmony, and accuracy. The com- mittee offered its own ideas on options for improving and updating Subchapter S. â¢ Improve the collection, accuracy, and analysis of casualty and near- miss data to gain a better understanding of where vessel stability problems are occurring, and at what level of significance, to inform or guide future stability regulations. 1 See http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/178088.aspx.
INTRODUCTION 9 BOX 1-1 Statement of Task: Phase 2 Study In the first phase of the study, the committee will review the set of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) regulations and policy documents that establish stability require- ments for U.S. flag vessels in order to identify, and recommend as appropriate, options to make and keep the requirements current, align them better with inter- national standards, improve their consistency and clarity, and organize them in a manner that facilitates their use and compliance. In addition, the committee will identify candidate sources of data that the USCG can explore further to inform its assessments of the advantages and disadvantages of requiring all inspected passenger vessels to undergo periodic stability verifications, including lightweight surveys. The committee will report on its findings and recommendations. In the second phase of the study, the committee will conduct an in-depth and critical assessment of the options, as identified in the first phase of its study, for improving the consistency, harmony, and accuracy of the USCGâs main (Sub- chapter S subparts) vessel stability requirements. Informed by this assessment, and considering any new statutory requirements that may affect the USCGâs priorities with regard to its vessel stability standards, the committee will identify the most promising options for the USCG to pursue to improve the requirements. In addition, the committee will review ship stability regulations that exist outside Subchapter S (to include Subchapters C and T) and any policy documents that supplement the Subchapters S, C, and T regulations. The committee will recom- mend options for improving the consistency, harmony, and accuracy of these other regulations and for conveying information from the policy documents in the regulations themselves to improve consistency and ease of use. PHASE 2 STUDY CHARGE Following the issuance of these recommendations, the USCG requested this second study phase consisting of several follow-on assignments that comprise the studyâs Statement of Task, as detailed in Box 1-1. First, the USCG asked for a more in-depth and critical assessment of the options suggested in the first phase of the study to identify those that the USCG could prioritize as it seeks to improve the consistency, harmony, accuracy, and ease of use of the Subchapter S vessel stability requirements. In particular, the USCG asked the committee to suggest a possible method- ology for prioritizing the development and implementation of the options identified in the letter report from the first study phase. Second, the committee was asked to consider stability regulations that exist apart from Subchapter S (in other 46 CFR Chapter I subchapters) and to suggest options for improving their consistency, harmony, accu- racy, and ease of use in the same manner that it offered suggestions for
10 USCG VESSEL STABILITY REGULATIONS AND GUIDANCE Subchapter S in the first study phase. In further explaining this part of the study request during briefings, the USCG emphasized that it is particu- larly interested in suggestions concerning the fleet that operates inward of the Boundary Lines (as defined in 46 CFR, Part 7) and that is subject to the stability requirements in Subchapter T. This fleet distinction is explained in more detail later in this report, but it essentially excludes all ocean-going vessels that have SOLAS certificates and all large commercial fishing ves- sels subject to Subchapter C.2 Fishing vessels were excluded from consid- eration because the Subchapter C requirements for some classes of fishing vessels are currently under review by the USCG and its industry advisory committees. Third, the study committee was asked to look beyond the regulations to consider any policy and guidance documents that supplement the Sub- chapters S and T regulationsâand here again, to identify promising options for improving their consistency, harmony, accuracy, and ease of use. In requesting this second study phase, the USCG also pointed to the importance of considering any new statutory requirements that may affect the USCGâs priorities with regard to its vessel stability regulations. Indeed, shortly after the study commenced, Congress passed the Save Our Seas Act, which was signed into law on October 11, 2018 (Public Law 115-265).3 The act was in response to concerns raised by the USCGâs Marine Board of Investigation (MBI)4 and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)5 following their investigations of the October 1, 2015, loss of the U.S. flag freight vessel SS El Faro in a hurricane off the Bahamas. Safety issues raised in the MBI and NTSB reports prompted Congress to mandate that the USCG take several actions, including establishing recordkeeping requirements for small weight changes to freight vessels over time and reviewing the effectiveness of U.S. regulations, international conventions, recognized organizationsâ class rules, and USCG technical policy about intact and damage stability requirements. In accordance with the Statement of Taskâs charge for the committee to consider new relevant statutory requirements, the USCG asked for guid- ance on how it should respond to these two legislative requirements. During briefings at the outset of the study to explain this interest, the USCG asked the study committee to: 2 Subchapter S of 46 CFR contains vessel stability requirements for most vessels used in commercial passenger and cargo service; Subchapter T also contains stability requirements that apply to certain small, inspected passenger vessels; and Subchapter C applies to certain uninspected vessels (primarily commercial fishing industry vessels). 3 See https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/3508. 4 See https://media.defense.gov/2017/Oct/01/2001820187/-1/-1/0/FINAL%20PDF%20ROI% 2024%20SEP%2017.pdf. 5 See https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/MAR1701.pdf.
INTRODUCTION 11 1. Offer ideas on how the agency could proceed in implementing the statutory requirement for tracking incremental weight changes in vessels and how that tracking might differ for freight and passenger vessels, and 2. Recommend a methodology for the USCG to conduct a review of the effectiveness of USCG regulations and technical policy, as well as international conventions and class rules, regarding intact and damage stability standards under Subchapter S. For presentation purposes in this report, the committee treats these two requests, which comport with its existing Statement of Task, as two items to be considered in addition to the three previously discussed (a more in-depth assessment of the options suggested in the first phase, a review of stability regulations outside Subchapter S, and a review of documents that supplement the stability regulations). The five requested items are addressed in individual chapters of this report, the organization of which is described next. ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT The remainder of the report consists of seven chapters. Chapter 2 provides context and other information essential for addressing the five requests that make up the study remit. It provides background on vessel stability, the Boundary Lines, the SS El Faro casualty, and provisions in the Save Our Seas Act that are relevant to the study charge. Chapters 3 and 4 respond to the USCGâs requests for assistance in complying with Save Our Seas Act provisions calling for regulations on lightship weight tracking and a review of the effectiveness of stability regu- lations and regulatory guidance and policy documents. Chapter 3 advises on options for establishing a lightship weight-tracking requirement, and Chapter 4 offers a methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of the cur- rent stability regulations. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 address the other task items that do not pertain to the Save Our Seas Act. Chapter 5 provides suggestions for improving stability-related regulations that are outside of Subchapter S, and par- ticularly those in Subchapter T that apply to vessels operating inward of the Boundary Lines. Chapter 6 reviews relevant regulatory guidance and policy documents and suggests ways to improve their consistency, clarity, and usability. Chapter 7 provides a methodology for the USCG to consider as it prioritizes the candidate improvements and changes to Subchapter S regulations as suggested in the studyâs Phase 1 report.