Coast Guard applies regs for 2018 gold dredge operations
Gold dredge operations offshore Nome may fall under new U.S. Coast Guard regulations for the 2018 summer mining season. Waiting for the ice to go out before finding out may not be a good plan, according to new enforcement regulations for the upcoming season. The Coast Guard has decided that Nome dredges must more closely comply with federal requirements for safety sake.
It seems the grace period for coming into compliance with certain federal regulations has passed. Until now, operators have had leeway to come into compliance with federal commercial vessel requirements. However, this season the USCG may board vessels and take enforcement action against any vessel found non-compliant. The USCG considers all gold dredges operating in the vicinity of Nome to be commercial vessels, according to the USCG Gold Dredge Safety Handout for 2018, which cancels the Sector Anchorage Marine Safety Information Bulletin 01-17.
On the other hand, the USCG safety personnel will less likely board vessels that have a voluntary safety decal or have already been inspected; however, the USCG has the power to board any vessel, according to the USCG advisory.
The USCG, with cooperation from Port of Nome personnel, keeps an eye on the dredge operations involving a large variety of vessels dredging for gold during ice-free months three nautical miles seaward of the territorial sea baseline near Nome in terms of vessel safety and environmental protection.
The specific commercial standards that apply to each vessel depend on the vessel’s length, tonnage, age, area of operation, and means of propulsion. The Coast Guard considers a dredge to be any type of floating dredge, including excavators and dive platforms, including jack-up dredges but excluding bottom crawlers. A self-propelled dredge has its own motorized unit, while a non-self-propelled dredge is a barge that depends on another vessel for movement.
Some gold dredges will have to hold a line load certificate or a Certificate of Inspection to operate in 2018. A load line certificate says that the vessel has been inspected as regards certain federal regulations. Load line refers to the minimum amount of freeboard a vessel may have, meaning the measure of how much of the vessel is above water. Owners of vessels exceeding 79 feet in length and weighing more than 300 gross tons as well as owners of any size dredge without propulsion must be inspected and have a Certificate of Inspection.
An “uninspected vessel,” in reference to regulations, is a vessel that is self-propelled and less than 300 gross tons. With few exceptions, most dredges in Nome fall into this category, according to the 2018 safety handout. Just the same, uninspected dredges must adhere to general commercial vessel safety standards. At the same time, locals have observed a decline in small dredge operations with a trend toward larger operations.
Vessels, which are not required to have a load line certificate or COI, may still participate in the voluntary examination program and receive a decal annually
Owners of dredges that do not have their own propulsion and need to be towed to safely maneuver need to know that tow boats longer than 26 feet starting this 2018 season require a federal Certificate of Inspection and a credentialed master mariner to operate them, according to the advisory.
The USCG has put out the notice that informs and urges larger dredge operators and owners to contact the USCG early and if needed, to submit Form CG-3752 30 days ahead of time to arrange for an inspection and to seek additional information concerning regulations that would apply to their vessels.
“If you currently own a gold dredge or are considering purchasing or buying a gold dredge, please call sector Anchorage at the earliest opportunity to ensure your vessel is in compliance with regulations,” Lt. Brittany Akers, chief of Port State Control for Sector Anchorage, said in the notice.
Here’s the good news: “Receiving an inspection of your dredge won’t subject you to fines or other enforcement,” according to Akers.
Inspection dates will be posted on the USCG District 17 Web site.
The Gold Dredge Safety Handout 2018, available to the public online, contains loads of information concerning requirements and includes enclosures addressing accident reports, dive lights and flags for Nome dredge divers, and diver and boater safety lessons learned from past incidents and experiences.