[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 232 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 57419-57422]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-26197]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 600

[Docket No. 160908833-7999-01]
RIN 0648-BG34


Requirements of the Vessel Monitoring System Type-Approval

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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[[Page 57420]]

SUMMARY: All owners of vessels participating in a NOAA Vessel 
Monitoring System (VMS) program are required to acquire a NMFS-approved 
Enhanced Mobile Transmitting Unit (EMTU) or Mobile Transmitting Unit 
(MTU) to comply with the Vessel Monitoring System requirements. This 
proposed action would amend the existing VMS Type-Approval regulations 
by removing the requirement for VMS vendors to periodically renew their 
EMTU/MTU type-approvals. This renewal process has proved to be 
unnecessary, has cost fishermen and approved VMS vendors additional 
time and expense, and has imposed unnecessary costs on the government. 
Removing the type-approval renewal requirement will spare fishermen, 
VMS vendors and the government the time and expense associated with the 
renewal process.

DATES: Comments must be received January 4, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this proposed rule identified by 
``NOAA-HQ-2017-0141'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-HQ-2017-0141, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Send written comments to Kelly Spalding, 1315 East 
West Highway, Room 3207, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g. name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelly Spalding, Vessel Monitoring 
System Program Manager, Headquarters: 301-427-8269 or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In December 2014, NMFS published a final rule to codify national 
VMS type-approval standards for the approval by NMFS of an EMTU/MTU, 
any associated software, and mobile communications service (MCS; 
collectively referred to as a VMS) before they are authorized for use 
in the NMFS VMS program. See 79 FR 77399 (December 24, 2014). Those 
standards are set out in 50 CFR part 600, subpart Q, Vessel Monitoring 
System Type-Approval.
    Fishers must comply with applicable Federal fishery VMS 
regulations, and in doing so, may select from a variety of EMTU/MTU 
vendors that have been approved by NMFS to participate in the VMS 
program for specific fisheries. The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement 
(OLE) maintains the list of type-approved VMS units at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ole/about/our_programs/vessel_monitoring.html. The 
EMTU/MTU allows OLE to determine the geographic position of the vessel 
at specified intervals or during specific events, via mobile 
communications services between NMFS OLE and the vessel using a NMFS-
approved MCS provider. These communications are secure and the 
information is only made available to authorized personnel.
    This proposed action would remove the two sections of 50 CFR part 
600, subpart Q, that require VMS type-approval holders (VMS vendors) to 
periodically renew their type-approvals. Currently, Sec.  600.1512 of 
the VMS type approval regulations provides that type-approvals are 
valid for three years from the date on which NMFS publishes a notice in 
the Federal Register of the approval. Prior to the expiration of the 
three-year type-approval period, the VMS vendor must apply for a type-
approval renewal pursuant to Sec.  600.1513. In the nearly three years 
since the type-approval regulations were issued, NMFS has found that 
the renewal process is unnecessary, has cost fishermen and approved VMS 
vendors additional time and expense, and has imposed unnecessary cost 
on the government. Removing the type-approval renewal requirement will 
spare fishermen, VMS vendors and the government the time and expense 
associated with the renewal process without impairing the effectiveness 
of the VMS program.
    Section 600.1513 of Subpart Q sets out the type-approval renewal 
process. A VMS vendor seeking renewal of a VMS type-approval must 
submit a written renewal request and supporting materials to NOAA OLE 
at least 30 days, but not more than six months, prior to the end of the 
three-year type approval period. To do so, the type-approval holder 
must submit a written request letter containing the following 
information and documentation.
    The type-approval holder must certify that the features, 
components, configuration and services of their type-approved EMTU/MTU 
and/or MCS remain in compliance with the standards set out in 50 CFR 
600.1502 through 600.1509 (or for an MTU, requirements applicable when 
the MTU was originally type-approved) and with applicable VMS 
regulations and requirements in effect for the region(s) and Federal 
fisheries for which they are type-approved. The type-approval holder 
must also certify that, since the holder's type-approval or last 
renewal (whichever was later), there have been no modifications to or 
replacements of any functional component or piece of their type-
approved configuration. The renewal request letter must also include a 
table that lists in one column each requirement set out in Sec. Sec.  
600.1502-600.1509. The subsequent columns must show for each 
requirement:
    (1) Whether the requirement applies to their type-approval;
    (2) Whether the requirement is still being met;
    (3) Whether any modifications or replacements were made to the 
type-approved configuration or process since type-approval or the last 
renewal;
    (4) An explanation of any modifications or replacements that were 
made since type-approval or the last renewal; and
    (5) The date that any modifications or replacements were made.
    If the type-approval renewal is for an MCS or EMTU/MTU and MCS 
combined, the renewal request letter must also include vessel position 
report statistics regarding the processing and transmission of position 
reports from the onboard EMTUs and MTUs to the MCS or MCSP's VMS data 
processing center. At a minimum, the statistics must include successful 
position report transmission and delivery rates, the rate of position 
report latencies, and the minimum/maximum/average lengths of time for 
those latencies. The showing must be demonstrated in graph form, be 
divided out by each NMFS region and any relevant international 
agreement area and relevant high seas area, and cover 6 full and 
consecutive months of data for all of the type-approval holder's U.S. 
federal fishery customers.
    Currently, NMFS reviews all documentation, analyses and data, and 
addresses any omissions, inconsistencies and failures. Within 30 days 
of receipt of a complete renewal request letter, NMFS notifies the 
type-approval holder of the approval or partial approval of the renewal 
request

[[Page 57421]]

or send a letter to the type-approval holder that explains the reasons 
for denial or partial denial of the request.
    These type-approval renewal provisions were designed to provide for 
an in-depth look at the type-approval holder's overall record of 
compliance with type-approval requirements. However, NMFS' experience 
with the renewal process has shown that it is cumbersome for both type-
approval holders and NMFS OLE. In some cases, type-approval holders 
have opted to apply for type-approval of newer VMS units rather than 
seek renewal of their older VMS units. When a type-approval lapses due 
to non-renewal, fishermen are required to replace their VMS units that 
are no longer type approved, despite the fact that the unit may still 
be functional and compliant with all current VMS standards. Doing so 
imposes unnecessary cost on fishermen who must purchase a new VMS unit 
and may lead to lost fishing opportunities while the VMS unit is being 
replaced.
    In addition to being costly and burdensome for type-approval 
holders, fishermen and NMFS, the renewal process is not necessary 
because Sec.  600.1514 sets out an EMTU type-approval revocation 
process. In the event that a type-approved EMTU model fails to meet the 
VMS EMTU specifications, NMFS can remove it from the VMS program 
through this revocation process. The revocation process provides OLE 
with a timely way to remove an underperforming EMTU/MTU, if necessary. 
The VMS Program works with the fishermen and VMS industry on a daily 
basis and is continuously monitoring issues, concerns and anomalies 
that arise with any EMTU's performance. When an EMTU has performance 
issues, or anomalies that cannot be resolved informally, NMFS can 
initiate the type-approval revocation process as provided in Sec.  
600.1514. The type-approval period and renewal process at Sec.  
600.1512 and Sec.  600.1513 are therefore unnecessary in addition to 
being burdensome and costly. With the proposed removal of the three-
year period for type-approval and the renewal requirement, type-
approval would remain valid indefinitely unless NMFS initiates the 
revocation process pursuant to Sec.  600.1514, or the type-approval 
holder chooses or agrees to forfeit their type-approval.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed 
rule is consistent with the provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 
other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public 
comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This proposed rule is expected to be an Executive Order 13771 
deregulatory action. Details on the estimated cost savings of this 
proposed rule can be found in the accompanying Regulatory Impact Review 
available from October 2016.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The basis for that determination was summarized in the letter 
to SBA as follows:
    The proposed rule would remove the two sections of Subpart Q that 
require VMS type-approval holders to periodically renew their type-
approvals. Section 600.1512 of the VMS type-approval regulations 
provides that type-approvals are valid for three years, after which 
time, the VMS vendor must apply for a type-approval renewal pursuant to 
section 600.1513.
    The objective of the proposed action is to eliminate the 
unnecessary time and cost to the fishermen, VMS vendors, and the 
government associated with VMS type-approval renewal process. The type-
approval renewal provisions were designed to provide for an in-depth 
look at the type-approval holder's overall record of compliance with 
type-approval requirements. However, NMFS' experience with the renewal 
process has shown that it is cumbersome for both type-approval holders 
and NMFS OLE. The type-approval holder must certify that the features, 
components, configuration and services of their type-approved EMTU and/
or MCS remain in compliance with the standards set out in 50 CFR 
600.1502 through 600.1509 and with applicable VMS regulations and 
requirements in effect for the region(s) and Federal fisheries for 
which they are type-approved. The type-approval holder must also 
certify that, since the holder's type-approval or last renewal 
(whichever was later), there have been no modifications to or 
replacements of any functional component or piece of their type-
approved configuration. The renewal request letter must also include a 
table that lists each requirement set out in Sec. Sec.  600.1502-
600.1509 and whether those requirements are still being met. Within 30 
days of receipt of a complete renewal request letter, NMFS must review 
the renewal request and notify the type-approval holder of the approval 
or partial approval of the renewal request or send a letter to the 
type-approval holder that explains the reasons for denial or partial 
denial of the request.
    The process is not only cumbersome, but also unnecessary because 
NMFS OLE works with fishermen and the VMS industry on a daily basis and 
is continuously monitoring issues and anomalies that may arise with the 
performance and reliability of type-approved VMS units. In the event 
that NMFS cannot correct the issues through informal discussion with 
the type-approval holder, section 600.1514 of Subpart Q sets out a VMS 
type-approval revocation process, which NMFS can initiate to remove a 
VMS unit from the VMS type-approved list.
    The renewal process can also indirectly impose costs on fishers. In 
some cases, type-approval holders have opted to apply for type-approval 
of newer VMS units rather than seek renewal of their older VMS units. 
When a type-approval lapses due to non-renewal, fishermen are required 
to replace their VMS units that are no longer type approved, despite 
the fact that the unit may still be functional and compliant with all 
current VMS standards. Doing so imposes unnecessary cost on fishermen 
who must purchase a new VMS unit and may lead to lost fishing 
opportunities while the VMS unit is being replaced.
    The economic effects of this proposed rule would not result in any 
significant adverse economic impacts on the six existing VMS vendors, 
and would actually reduce the business costs currently associated with 
the type-approval renewal process every three years. NMFS estimates 
that this renewal process involves up to 16 hours of engineering labor 
and 8 hours of product management labor to compile the compliance 
report for renewal along with any supporting materials. Based on the 
Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2016 National Occupational Employment 
and Wage Estimates, the mean hourly wage for engineers is approximately 
$46 per hour and for general and operations managers it is 
approximately $59 per hour. Based on those labor rate estimates, NMFS 
estimates eliminating the renewal process will result in reduced costs 
of up to $1,208 per type-approval that would have occurred every three 
years under the current regulations.
    Overall, there would not be a significant economic impact to VMS 
type-approval holders as a result of this rule. The removal of the 
type-approval renewal requirement would reduce

[[Page 57422]]

costs to type-approval holders, fishermen and NMFS associated with the 
renewal process. The change in the regulations are not expected to 
place small entities at a significant competitive disadvantage to large 
entities and removing the type-approval renewal process may in fact 
help smaller vendors more given their more limited resources for 
dealing with the administrative and technical costs associated with the 
current type-approval renewal process.
    Thus, NMFS certifies that this proposed rule to remove the type-
approval period and renewal process will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, 
an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has 
been prepared.
    NMFS requests public comment on this decision, the associated 
analysis and all other aspects of this proposed rule. Send comments to 
NMFS Headquarters at the ADDRESSES above.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 600

    Administrative practice and procedure, Fisheries, Fishing, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: November 30, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 600 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 600--MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROVISIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 600 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 561 and 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

0
2. In Sec.  600.1510, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  600.1510  Notification of type-approval.

    (a) If a request made pursuant to Sec.  600.1501 (type-approval) is 
approved or partially approved, NMFS will issue a type approval letter 
and publish a notice in the Federal Register to indicate the specific 
EMTU model, MCSP or bundle that is approved for use, the MCS or class 
of MCSs permitted for use with the type-approved EMTU, and the regions 
or fisheries in which the EMTU, MCSP, or bundle is approved for use.
* * * * *


Sec.  Sec.  600.1512-600.1518  [Amended]

0
3. Remove Sec. Sec.  600.1512 and 600.1513 and redesignate Sec. Sec.  
600.1514 through 600.1518 as Sec. Sec.  600.1512 through 600.1516, 
respectively.

[FR Doc. 2017-26197 Filed 12-4-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P