International Marine Surveyors
Virgin Islands Commercial Vessel Coding
Virgin Islands Commercial Vessel Coding Regulations and Guidance
The waters of the Virgin Islands Archipelago are a unique and beautiful cruising ground enjoyed by hundreds of private pleasure and commercial vessels each year. Private pleasure vessels are required to self-comply with the applicable laws of the waters they intend to navigate in, as is generally the practice world-wide.
The geopolitical border that divides the British Virgin Islands from the US Virgin Islands creates legal jurisdiction unique to each territory. For maritime purposes the waters of the US Virgin islands (USVI) are governed by United States Code of Federal Regulations and Virgin Islands Code while ultimate authority in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is vested in the King with an appointed Governor representing the King and a Premier elected under the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007 (Wikipedia). The term "Virgin Islands" is commonly used to collectively refer to both the USVI and BVI, however is used in legal terminology in the BVI, not to be confused with laws and regulations of the USVI.
USVI: Enforcement of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in USVI waters is under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard. The USCG has determined that all Commercial Vessels operating in USVI waters with between 6 and 12 passengers must demonstrate compliance with Uninspected Passenger Vessel laws as well as the United Kingdom (UK) Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Commercial Motor or Sailing Vessels, commonly known as the Blue Code (sailing) or Yellow Code (motor). See MSIB 03-15.
Commercial vessels, defined as any vessel with at least one paying passenger, operating in BVI and/or USVI waters are required to comply with the laws of each of the territories they are operating in and are required to obtain certification from an Certifying Authority demonstrating compliance. As such, all commercial vessels operating in USVI waters with between 6 and 12 passengers must demonstrate compliance with both the UK Blue/Yellow Code AND 46 C.F.R., Subchapter C UPV requirements.
A Certifying Authority, also known as a Third Party Organization (TPO), is authorized to perform the actual inspection of vessels and create and maintain a record of vessels that meet the appropriate codes and requirements. Part of this record is a listing on this web site demonstrating compliance and searchable by enforcement authorities, charterers, brokers, and other interested parties.
Charter (commercial) vessels operating in the USVI
On December 18, 2014, US Congress signed Public Law 113-281 known as the
HOWARD COBLE COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2014
Section 319 amended the law concerning Uninspected Passenger Vessel operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, that meet certain requirements, to carry up to 12 passengers.
On May 1, 2023 United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment St. Thomas authorized
International Marine Surveyors
to perform inspections and issue Certificates of Compliance for Uninspected Passenger Vessels (less than 78 feet LOA) to carry up to 12 passengers in USVI waters as follows:
"On 8 December, 2020 the U.S. Coast Guard updated guidance for uninspected passenger vessels (UPV) operating in accordance with 46 C.F.R., Subchapter C, see enclosure (1). The update allows a UPV under 42 meters (79 feet) in overall length operating in the U.S. Virgin Islands to carry up to 12 passengers. The UPV must be able to demonstrate a valid compliance examination demonstrating the UPV is in compliance with the Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Commercial Motor or Sailing Vessels, hereinafter the "Code," in lieu of a valid copy of the Small Commercial Vessel Certificate issued by the British Virgin Islands."
"The MSD St. Thomas will accept International Marine Surveyors documentation demonstrating compliance with the Code."
International Marine Surveyors is an independently owned and operated company specializing in Marine Surveys with specific experience and expertise in international commercial vessel operations.
As a Certifying Authority recognized by the United States Coast Guard, International Marine Surveyors is authorized to issue Certificates of Compliance attesting to a UPV vessel's compliance with both the Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Commercial Motor or Sailing Vessels as well as compliance with 46 C.F.R., Subchapter C, UPV requirements for operation in US waters.
All commercial vessels operating in USVI waters must demonstrate compliance with both the Blue/Yellow Code AND 46 C.F.R., Subchapter C UPV requirements.
It is the responsibility of the Master of the vessel to ensure compliance, which, in the event of a boarding inspection by authorities or a Marine Casualty must be demonstrated. Illegal charters, vessels not in compliance, are subject to fines per 46 USC 4106:
"In accordance with 46 USC 4106, if an UPV is operated in violation of applicable laws and regulations, the owner, charterer, managing operator, agent, master, and individual in charge are each liable for criminal or civil penalties. The UPV is liable in rem for the penalty."
Coding your commercial vessel with International Marine Surveyors demonstrates to the appropriate authorities, as well as to the general public, that your vessel is in compliance.