Initial Exams

Foreign flagged passenger vessels must participate in the Initial Certificate of Compliance (ICOC) exam process if they meet the following conditions:

  •  New or existing vessels intending to embark passengers for the first time from a U.S. port.
  •  New or existing vessels that intend to carry U.S. citizens as passengers and make port calls at U.S. ports for the first time.
  •  Existing vessels having undergone a modification or alteration of a “major character” as defined by SOLAS.
  •  Existing vessels that have undergone a modification or alteration, or a change of use or categorization of existing spaces that affects required structural fire protection or means of egress. In such cases, the Coast Guard limits initial COC exam plan review and related examination to the new arrangements and examines existing arrangements.
  •  Existing vessels returning to service in the U.S. more than one year after the annual Certificate of Compliance (COC), Form CG-3585 expired and more than 5 years since the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center (MSC) completed the vessel plan review. The vessel owner or operator must completely identify all modifications or alterations made to the vessel since the initial plan review. The Coast Guard requires initial COC exam plan review and inspection for any modification or alteration made to the vessel that materially alters structural fire protection or means of egress and examines existing arrangements as described in USCG Marine Safety Manual, Volume II: Materiel Inspection, COMDTINST M16000.73 (series).
  •  Existing vessels if selected by Coast Guard Office of Vessel Activities, COMDT (CG-CVC).

Annual exams:

FPVs that embark passengers at U.S. ports or that visit U.S. ports with U.S. citizens embarked as passengers must be verified on an annual basis before the COC expires, and at least once during the period of validity of the COC.

The USCG performs examinations to ensure FPVs continue to maintain all systems per applicable regulations. Examinations also ensure the systems examined during the Initial Certificate of Compliance (ICOC) are maintained and the Recognized Organization (RO) and Flag Administration have performed annual renewal surveys as required by reference (d), SOLAS: Consolidated Text of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, and its Protocol of 1988: Articles, Annexes, and Certificates, (Incorporating all amendments in effect from 1 January 2020), International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations.

Exams are conducted in a holistic manner, viewing shipboard materiel condition combined with ship operations as a single system. This system when combined with the aspects of human factors and influences form the overall ability to operate safely.

Periodic Exams:

The USCG performs periodic exams to ensure passenger vessels are operated in a safe manner. These exams focus on the performance of officers and crew with specific attention to their training and proficiency.

As a best practice, port state control (PSC) examiners test equipment or systems only if there is evidence they are not in full compliance after an annual/initial exam has been conducted. Periodic exams typically include a document check, a vessel walkthrough, and drills performed by officers and the crew.