The United States Coast Guard recently issued an advisory to vessel owners/operators (VO/O) offering further guidance on the salvage and marine firefighting (SMFF) regulation (Title 33, CFR, Part 155), which requires VO/O’s navigating U.S. territorial waters to plan for emergencies that could escalate into worst-case scenarios.

In most Captain of the Port zones, primary SMFF providers rely heavily on subcontracted resources to meet the SMFF requirements. The burden of compliance rests with VO/Os and not the contracted or sub-contracted service provider, so it is crucial for the plan holder (VO/O) to understand the relationship between the primary SMFF provider and the provider’s subcontracted resources.

If the VO/O does not own response resources, they must arrange through contract(s) or other legally binding means to meet the criteria established in the regulation, which includes:

  • Written consent from the resource provider for the plan holder to list them in their VRP;
  • Agreement from service providers or resource providers to provide the services listed; and
  • The service provider’s or resource provider’s acknowledgement that their resources are capable of arriving within the response times required by the regulation.

When the primary service provider hired by the VO/O does not own the resource(s), the VO/O is still responsible for ensuring that all contracts and agreements between the primary service provider they choose and the sub-contracted entities owning resources meet the planning requirements for their VRPs.

  • The resources owner’s intent to respond;
  • Whether they are capable of meeting the time requirements and providing the service;
  • If a non-dedicated resource, clarification as to which situations may render the resource unavailable, such as weather, repairs or other extraordinary circumstances.

The Coast Guard has recently began requiring plan holders to produce evidence that the contracts/agreements supporting SMFF services are adequate.