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Safer Seas Act: Enhancing Maritime Safety and Compliance for US Ship Owners and Operators

The Safer Seas Act is new maritime law in the United States that aims to make the industry safer for all on board. The law was passed in 2022 and specifically implements important protections and enacts new requirements for the US Coast Guard and ship owners to combat sexual harassment at sea.

But what impact does this new law have on ship owners and operators for US-flagged ships? 

In this article, we’ll look at what the Safer Seas Act entails in detail, how you can comply, deadlines for compliance, and how AI-powered maritime CCTV helps create a safer work environment while avoiding costly fines. 

What is the Safer Seas Act? 

The Safer Seas Act aims to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) in the maritime industry. It penalizes companies and bystanders that don’t report these kinds of crimes, and requires ship owners to implement more processes and technology to help protect victims while preventing sexual violence on ships. 

According to J. Ryan Melogy, Maritime Attorney, the Senate and House versions of the bills are, “as much about holding the US Coast Guard accountable for doing their job to protect mariners at sea as they are about holding predators and shipping companies accountable.”

Congressman Peter DeFazio first introduced The Safer Seas Act in the House of Representatives at the end of February 2022. It was passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2022 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.

When introducing the bill, DeFazio said

“We are taking a critical step toward eliminating sexual violence in the maritime industry. With this legislation, we can help fight assault and harassment in maritime transportation through penalties for perpetrators, new requirements for vessel owners, expanded legal recourse for victims, and a myriad of policies to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the first place.”

The Safer Seas Act aims to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) in the maritime industry. The main points of the legislation are as follows:

  1. Requires the US Coast Guard to revoke or suspend a license, certificate of registry, or merchant mariner’s document to an individual who has been convicted of sexual assault within the previous 10 years and to revoke or suspend such credentials to an individual who has been convicted of sexual harassment within the previous 5 years
  2. Provides protection of seaman against discrimination for those who report or intend to report sexual assault or sexual harassment incidents
  3. Directs the Coast Guard to promulgate regulations related to possession and consumption of alcohol by crewmembers aboard documented vessels
  4. Requires non-passenger carrying, ocean-going, commercial vessels to install and maintain a video surveillance system with audio capability in areas adjacent to bedrooms and limit access to the surveillance to law enforcement officials and victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment
  5. Creates new reporting mandates and procedures for crew and vessel owners to report sexual assault or sexual harassment.

So far, the Safer Seas Act has had a widely positive reception in the industry. Greg Regan, president of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, said,  “We applaud the efforts of the Committee to work with maritime labor and the industry to create meaningful reforms that will ensure safe and equitable workplaces for mariners now and in the future.” 

How Can You Comply With the Safer Seas Act? 

Prior to this legislation, ship owners and managers in charge of US-flagged vessels were required to report certain complaints of criminal sexual abuse offenses to the Coast Guard. According to legal experts, this “was limited to a certain class of sexual abuse crimes that occurred within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”.

With the new legislation, ship owners and managers must immediately report all cases that break the law or breach company policy, which widens the scope of incidents considerably. The report must include information, such as the time and date of the incident, the name and official number of the documented vessel, and the geographic position or location of the vessel when the incident occurred. 

Vessel owners then have a further 10 days to create a more detailed report and send it to the Coast Guard. The civil penalties for not reporting incidents to the Coast Guard have risen from $5000 to $50,000 per case, which makes non-compliance a major financial risk. 

The compliance deadlines vary per requirement. Ship owners and managers have until the end of 2024 (2 years after the enactment of the Safer Seas Act) to install video and audio equipment. The deadline for alcohol regulation compliance is the end of 2023. 

Ensure Compliance With AI-Powered Maritime CCTV 

Let’s think about point four of the legislation in more detail. Vessel owners must maintain a video surveillance system with audio capability in areas adjacent to bedrooms. They have to retain footage for at least a year, or five years when the footage is associated with an incident. 

 Many shipowners and managers have already at least considered ⁠— if not already installed ⁠— onboard maritime CCTV cameras for post-mortem safety and security reviews. But, while maritime CCTV has become increasingly common onboard ships to provide a documented record of all crew and cargo activities, up until now, it hasn’t commonly been used to report crimes of this nature. 

There are a number of challenges when it comes to using CCTV to comply with the Safer Seas Act, including:

  • Someone has to watch all of that footage, either in real-time or after the fact
  • It’s difficult to fully understand what is going on, or see the activities taking place
  • The process of downloading the CCTV footage and couriering it to shore can take months

Many hours of maritime CCTV footage remain unwatched and inaccessible to both onboard crew and management ashore. Live streaming video from ship to shore option remains mostly impractical due to maritime bandwidth limitations, poor video quality, and high costs. But, as ship owners and managers now have to report incidents to the Coast Guard immediately, and provide a detailed report within 10 days, they need to find another option. 

In today’s conditions with larger ships and smaller crew, if seafarers onboard want to deliver safer voyages for all members of their crew, they need AI-powered CCTV. 

Improve Safety with ShipIn’s FleetVision

ShipIn’s FleetVision platform aims to create a safer maritime industry by using AI and computer vision to proactively alert shipowners, managers, and seafarers to onboard events in real-time. ShipIn’s technology translates hours of footage onboard each ship in a fleet each month into real-time intelligence that shapes behavior onboard. 

ShipIn delivers a network of cameras that record hundreds of hours of footage stored onboard. AI then analyzes this camera footage, syncing with other onboard systems to provide the necessary context needed, such as GPS location, AIS status, crew manifest, and time of day. Much of this information is required when creating incident reports for the Coast Guard under the Safer Seas Act. 

ShipIn’s FleetVision platform shares this data from ship to shore in near real-time, enabling both shipboard crew and management ashore to understand and accurately assess events onboard. While complying with Safer Sea Act requirements and retaining footage for the necessary time periods, ship owners and managers get additional insights and visibility to improve safety, security, and operations onboard. 

By using ShipIn’s AI-powered FleetVision platform and CCTV, fleet owners and managers have the digital tools they need to create a safer work environment and to provide additional safeguards for the midshipmen on-board their vessels at the same time as fulfilling regulatory requirements. 

Learn more about FleetVision™

Amit Shalev

Amit is an accomplished business and technology leader with 15 years of experience spanning IoT, SaaS and insurance startups with a strong focus on business development, sales and marketing. Amit holds a BA Business & LLB (Law) from Reichman University.

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