YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | USCG bill proposes seafarer support fund

By Rajesh Joshi – LLOYD’S LIST

FUNDING specifically earmarked for seafarers involved in US investigations or abandoned by their employers is a facet of the US Coast Guard Authorisation Bill, which appears likely to be the first enacted since the last version in 2006.

The US Senate passed its version of the Bill, following a similar passage through the House of Representatives. The measure now goes to a conference committee where differences between the two versions would be reconciled, after which the president would sign it into law.

The Senate version authorises about $9.5bn for the agency for 2010-2011, compared with $10bn in the House version.

The 2010-2011 Bill mandates a new Support of Seafarers Fund to ensure fair treatment of seafarers involved in an ongoing US investigation or law enforcement action, and seafarers abandoned in the country.

Shipowners or operators who are found to have failed to provide necessary support for seafarers paroled in the US in an investigation, or found to have abandoned a seafarer, must reimburse this Fund for costs plus 25%, failing which the government may arrest their vessels or revoke permission to call at US harbours.

Other provisions in the Bill include conferring upon the USCG new authority to work directly with international organisations, which would have a most direct influence on the agency’s work within the International Maritime Organization.

It would also authorise outgoing Commandant Thad Allen’s desire to reorganise the agency’s command structure, and mandate an analysis of the costs and benefits of building new polar icebreakers versus rebuilding existing ones.

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