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The Coast Guard has established an equivalent to ISM Code compliance for small passenger vessels certificated under subchapter “T” of Title 46 CFR that must comply with the requirements of the ISM Code. These small passenger vessels, which carry more than 12 passengers on foreign voyages, must meet the limited operation requirements below to be eligible for this program. 

a. For a vessel’s company to apply for equivalency under 46 CFR 175.450, a small passenger vessel’s operation must be Coast Guard certificated to carry: 

(1) no more than 150 total persons, or

(2) no more than 49 overnight passengers.

b. At the time of the ISM Code rulemaking in 1997, there were approximately 54 U.S. flag small passenger vessels eligible for this type of an equivalence.  Because it was felt that ISM Code certification, in accordance with all of the requirements of 33 CFR Part 96, was too extensive for these vessels with limited company personnel, routes and operations, it was decided to allow an equivalent certification system more tailored to these vessels and companies.

c. Regulations for implementing an equivalent safety management system onboard these small passenger vessels in lieu of the normal ISM Code certification are allowed by 46 CFR §175.540. This program of equivalent ISM Code compliance will be directly administered by the Coast Guard as part ofthe normal scheduled inspection for certification. These small passenger vessels and companies will not receive either a DOC certificate or a SMCinstead the Certificate of Inspection (COI) of the vessel will be endorsed with astatement of equivalence to the ISM Code for the specified route. A “job aid”booklet and accompanying floppy disk has been produced by Commandant (GMOC) to guide small passenger vessel companies through the process of developing their safety management system to that provide an equivalent level of safety for the purpose of the ISM Code (See the Guide and Manual under Supporting Documents). These job aids are intended only to be a guideline and the OCMI should ensure that these equivalent safety management systems have been customized to the vessel’s and company’s operations and procedures before completing an equivalency inspection of asafety management system.

d. For a small passenger vessel company to apply for an equivalency under this requirement the company must apply in writing to the cognizant OCMI. The written request should relate how the vessel’s operation meets the requirements for the equivalency, and a copy of the company’s / vessel’s safety management system documentation (manual) must be enclosed for initial review.

 e. When a U.S. small passenger vessel is allowed to participate in the safety management system equivalent program by the cognizant OCMI, and its system is inspected and approved by the Coast Guard, the vessel’s COI shall be endorsed in the vessel operating details with the following statement: “The company’s and vessel’s safety management system meet the requirements of Chapter IX of SOLAS, through an equivalence program approved by the U.S.Coast Guard.”

 f. If a small passenger vessel’s company does not apply for an equivalence under 46 CFR 175 then it will be expected that the vessel’s company will contract with an authorized organization acting on behalf of the U.S. to complete audits and certification of the company’s and vessel’s SMS. In these cases, Coast Guard inspectors shall note the issuance of the company’s DOC and SMC by the authorized organization, during normal small passenger vessel COI inspections. If these international convention certificates, or an endorsement of equivalency to Chapter IX of SOLAS is not held by the vessel, the vessel COI may only be endorsed for a route involving domestic operations.









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