MSIB 19-24: Guidance Regarding Devices Altering Maneuvering Characteristics

This Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) supplements the recent Coast Guard Commandant (CG-ENG) Policy Letter 01-24 which provides guidance to maritime stakeholders regarding devices that alter the maneuvering characteristics of ships operating in the territorial waters of the United States within the MSU Port Arthur Captain of the Port (COTP) Zone.

Since November of 2022, existing ships have been required to comply with the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) regulations found in MARPOL Annex VI. One compliance option has been to reduce maximum ship speed or power through installation of overridable Engine Power Limiter (EPL) or Shaft Power Limiter (SHaPoLi) systems, of which there are two general types: electronic or mechanical. While installation of EPL/SHaPoLi systems appears to be available and a cost-effective way to achieve compliance, concerns regarding potentially hazardous scenarios involving underpowered ships have been communicated to the Coast Guard.

Vessel owner/operators are reminded that before embarking a pilot when entering or getting underway in the navigable waters of the MSU Port Arthur COTP Zone, main propulsion machinery should be available to timely respond to the full range of maneuvering commands. Ships transiting the AOR with EPL/SHaPoLi systems engaged must therefore be prepared to rapidly disengage the system if a safety concern or hazard arises. If, however, there might be concerns with the ability to override the system in a timely manner, preemptive override should be considered prior to beginning restricted waters transit.

SOLAS, Chapter V, Regulation 34 requires safety-focused voyage planning that considers the ship's maneuverability characteristics, navigation hazards, and environmental conditions along a route, including but not limited to number, severity, and frequency of course and speed changes, information from the Master-Pilot exchange, engine-order response times, duration, and complexity of transit in restricted waters, density of marine traffic, limits to visibility, tug availability, etc. As noted above, ship owner/operators entering the MSU Port Arthur COTP Zone are empowered by me to exercise pre-emptive override of any power limiting systems should their safety-focused voyage planning reveal the potential need for reserve power (ex. weather, currents, traffic, route, power availability concerns, etc.).

Additionally, master of ships employing an EPL, SHaPoLi, or engine acceleration-limiting program as part of their EEXI compliance structure shall inform attending pilots the effect these programs have on the main propulsion plant, and the mechanism or procedure used to override those systems, should it become necessary to do so for safe navigation of the vessel [see Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 164.11(k) and § 164.35(g)]. Attending pilots are also empowered to notify MSU Port Arthur and MSU Lake Charles for potential follow-up action, whenever they are not informed of such information.

The accurate representation of maneuvering characteristics and limitations of ships on pilot cards and wheelhouse posters is vital to safe navigation, particularly in restricted waters. Specific expectations for pilot card and wheelhouse poster content can be found in IMO Resolution A.601(15), "Provision and Display of Maneuvering Information on Board Ships." If a ship's maneuvering characteristics indicated on the pilot card and wheelhouse poster were not updated following installation of an EPL/SHaPoLi system or acceleration-limiting program, the ship is not in compliance with 33 CFR 164.11(k) and the system or program MUST be overridden prior to entry into U.S. territorial waters. Additionally, such ships may be issued a deficiency by MSU Port Arthur or MSU Lake Charles. If an override is not feasible, the Coast Guard may require additional measures to ensure the safety of the ship and the port during the vessel's transit through the AOR. Owner/operators of ships who have not updated their cards and posters are strongly urged to engage with Sabine-Neches and Lake Charles area pilots and MSU Port Arthur and/or MSU Lake Charles well in advance of the ship's arrival to avoid potential delays.

Overriding the EPL/SHaPoLi to safely navigate in restricted waters does NOT constitute a MARPOL Annex VI violation, as these regulations do not apply to emissions necessary for securing the safety of a ship.

The decision framework flowchart, for an existing ship with an installed EPL/SHaPoLi system that intends to operate in the U. S. territorial waters within the MSU Port Arthur COTP Zone, is provided for reference in the attached MSIB.

Ships should follow existing IMO guidance for recording and reporting EPL/SHaPoLi override and reserve power usage to their respective Flag states and/or Recognized Organizations. U.S.-flagged ships shall make reports to Coast Guard Flag State Control (CVC-4) at FlagStateControl@uscg.mil. EPL/SHaPoLi override and power usage by any ship in U. S. waters must also be reported to the cognizant Captain of the Port.

This notice will be posted on the Coast Guard's HOMEPORT website http://homeport.uscg.mil. If you have any questions regarding this notice, please call MSU Port Arthur at (409) 723-6500 or MSU Lake Charles at (337) 912-0073.