CRUISE SHIP NATIONAL CENTER OF EXPERTISE (CSNCOE)
There are three different types of foreign passenger vessel examinations: the initial examination, annual examination, and periodic examination. Each foreign passenger vessel embarking passengers from U.S. ports or carrying U.S. citizen passengers between ports must be examined at its first port of call in the United States and at least annually thereafter. In addition to these annual exams, foreign passenger vessels must be reexamined periodically based on compliance history. If a vessel operates on routes to several U.S. ports and under the jurisdiction of more than one OCMI, initial, annual, and periodic exams are not required by each office. Coordination between offices is encouraged. The importance and scope of these examinations are described below, primarily from a fire safety and lifesaving point of view. This is not to downplay the importance of examining the entire vessel for compliance with all SOLAS, statutory, and regulatory requirements, but rather to emphasize the extreme importance of fire safety and lifesaving for passenger vessels.
Foreign flag passenger vessels arriving in the United States that embark passengers for the first time or make an initial U.S. port call while carrying U.S. citizens as passengers, must participate in the Initial COC Exam process. Vessels that have returned to service after a prolonged absence from the United States must also participate in the Initial COC Exam process.
The Coast Guard performs annual examinations to ensure foreign passenger vessels continue to maintain all the systems the Coast Guard previously examined during the Initial Certificate of Compliance (ICOC) in proper operating condition and that the Flag Administration and RO, if applicable, have performed annual renewal surveys as required by SOLAS Chapter I, Regulation 7. Inspectors should focus on the vessel's fire fighting, lifesaving, and emergency systems and should witness a comprehensive fire and boat drill. In addition, inspectors should examine the vessel for modifications that would affect the vessel's structural fire protection and means of escape, that were completed without approval by the vessel's Flag Administration or review by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center.
The Coast Guard performs periodic examinations to ensure vessels are being operated in a safe manner. This examination should focus on the performance of officers and crew, with specific attention paid to their training and knowledge of the ship's emergency procedures, fire fighting, lifesaving systems, and performance during the drills. Since the overall material condition of the ship should not have appreciably changed since the annual examination, inspectors may randomly sample inspection items identified for examination. Inspectors may vary the scope of the examination depending upon the material condition of the vessel, the maintenance of the vessel, and the professionalism and training of the crew.
The unannounced exams will be separate from the normally scheduled Certificate of Compliance Annual and Periodic exams. These examinations are designed to obtain a snapshot of the conditions of the vessel at a time when the Coast Guard would not normally be onboard.