46 U.S.C.
United States Code, 2011 Edition
Title 46 - SHIPPING
Subtitle II - Vessels and Seamen
Part A - General Provisions
CHAPTER 23 - OPERATION OF VESSELS GENERALLY
From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov

CHAPTER 23—OPERATION OF VESSELS GENERALLY

Sec.
2301.
Application.
2302.
Penalties for negligent operations and interfering with safe operation.
2303.
Duties related to marine casualty assistance and information.
2303a.
Post serious marine casualty alcohol testing.
2304.
Duty to provide assistance at sea.
2305.
Injunctions.
2306.
Vessel reporting requirements.
2307.
Limitation of liability for Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service pilots.

        

Historical and Revision Notes

Chapter 23 lists requirements that relate to the general operation of all vessels. These include penalties and injunctive relief for negligent operation of a vessel. It also provides penalties for failure to render assistance.

Amendments

2002—Pub. L. 107–295, title IV, §431(b), Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2128, added item 2307.

1998—Pub. L. 105–383, title III, §§302(b), 304(d)(2), Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3418, 3420, added item 2302, struck out former item 2302 “Penalties for negligent operations”, and added item 2303a.

1984—Pub. L. 98–498, title II, §212(a)(1), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2305, added item 2306.

§2301. Application

Except as provided in sections 2304 and 2306 of this title, this chapter applies to a vessel operated on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States (including the territorial sea of the United States as described in Presidential Proclamation No. 5928 of December 27, 1988) and, for a vessel owned in the United States, on the high seas.

(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 508; Pub. L. 98–498, title II, §212(a)(2), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2305; Pub. L. 105–383, title III, §301(b)(2), Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3417; Pub. L. 109–304, §15(7), Oct. 6, 2006, 120 Stat. 1702.)

Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
2301 46:480

Section 2301 provides that this chapter is applicable to all vessels, including foreign flag vessels, when operating on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Any vessel owned in the United States while operating on the high seas would be included. By ownership the Committee means those vessels that are documented or numbered under United States laws and those other vessels that are neither documented or numbered but are of national origin and are not documented under the laws of a foreign nation. This chapter is applicable to a foreign flag vessel that is in innocent passage through territorial waters of the United States, presently 3 miles seaward, whether or not it is bound to or from a port subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

References in Text

Presidential Proclamation No. 5928, referred to in text, is set out under section 1331 of Title 43, Public Lands.

Amendments

2006—Pub. L. 109–304 substituted “sections 2304 and” for “section”.

1998—Pub. L. 105–383 inserted “(including the territorial sea of the United States as described in Presidential Proclamation No. 5928 of December 27, 1988)” after “of the United States”.

1984—Pub. L. 98–498 substituted “Except as provided in section 2306 of this title, this chapter” for “This chapter”.

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–498 effective 180 days after Oct. 19, 1984, see section 214 of Pub. L. 98–498, set out as an Effective Date note under section 2306 of this title.

§2302. Penalties for negligent operations and interfering with safe operation

(a) A person operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of a person is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 in the case of a recreational vessel, or $25,000 in the case of any other vessel.

(b) A person operating a vessel in a grossly negligent manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of a person commits a class A misdemeanor.

(c) An individual who is under the influence of alcohol, or a dangerous drug in violation of a law of the United States when operating a vessel, as determined under standards prescribed by the Secretary by regulation—

(1) is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000; or

(2) commits a class A misdemeanor.


(d) For a penalty imposed under this section, the vessel also is liable in rem unless the vessel is—

(1) owned by a State or a political subdivision of a State;

(2) operated principally for governmental purposes; and

(3) identified clearly as a vessel of that State or subdivision.


(e)(1) A vessel may not transport Government-impelled cargoes if—

(A) the vessel has been detained and determined to be substandard by the Secretary for violation of an international safety convention to which the United States is a party, and the Secretary has published notice of that detention and determination in an electronic form, including the name of the owner of the vessel; or

(B) the operator of the vessel has on more than one occasion had a vessel detained and determined to be substandard by the Secretary for violation of an international safety convention to which the United States is a party, and the Secretary has published notice of that detention and determination in an electronic form, including the name of the owner of the vessel.


(2) The prohibition in paragraph (1) expires for a vessel on the earlier of—

(A) 1 year after the date of the publication in electronic form on which the prohibition is based; or

(B) any date on which the owner or operator of the vessel prevails in an appeal of the violation of the relevant international convention on which the detention is based.


(3) As used in this subsection, the term “Government-impelled cargo” means cargo for which a Federal agency contracts directly for shipping by water or for which (or the freight of which) a Federal agency provides financing, including financing by grant, loan, or loan guarantee, resulting in shipment of the cargo by water.

(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 508; Pub. L. 98–557, §7(a), Oct. 30, 1984, 98 Stat. 2862; Pub. L. 101–380, title IV, §§4105(b)(2), 4302(a), Aug. 18, 1990, 104 Stat. 513, 537; Pub. L. 102–587, title V, §5102, Nov. 4, 1992, 106 Stat. 5071; Pub. L. 105–383, title III, §§302(a), 304(c), title IV, §408(a), Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3417, 3419, 3430; Pub. L. 107–295, title III, §325, Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2105.)

Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
2302(a) 46:1461(d)

46:1484(b)

2302(b) 46:1461(d)

46:1483

2302(c) 46:1484(b)

Section 2302 states that the negligent operation of a vessel is prohibited. These acts are subject to civil and criminal penalties and the involved vessel is subject to an in rem action. The negligent operation provisions have their genesis in the Act of April 25, 1940, 54 Stat. 167, when Congress prescribed that no person shall operate any motorboat or any vessel in a reckless or negligent manner. This provision was directed at all vessels and not those solely engaged in recreational boating. When the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, P.L. 92–75, 85 Stat. 217 (46 U.S.C. 1461) was enacted it adopted the reckless or negligent operation provisions of the 1940 Act. It adopted for the first time a provision for assessing civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties. It dropped the word “reckless” because of redundancy. It also combined the two classes of vessels; “any motorboat or any vessel” into one class by using the word “vessel” and defined vessel as including every description of watercraft.

Amendments

2002—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 107–295 substituted “$5,000 in the case of a recreational vessel, or $25,000 in the case of any other vessel” for “$1,000”

1998—Pub. L. 105–383, §302(a)(1), substituted “Penalties for negligent operations and interfering with safe operation” for “Penalties for negligent operations” in section catchline.

Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 105–383, §302(a)(2), substituted “or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger” for “that endangers”.

Subsec. (c)(1). Pub. L. 105–383, §304(c), substituted “$5,000; or” for “$1,000 for a first violation and not more than $5,000 for a subsequent violation; or”.

Subsec. (e). Pub. L. 105–383, §408(a), added subsec. (e).

1992—Subsec. (c)(1). Pub. L. 102–587 substituted “$1,000 for a first violation and not more than $5,000 for a subsequent violation” for “$1,000”.

1990—Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 101–380, §4302(a)(1), substituted “commits a class A misdemeanor” for “shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both”.

Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 101–380, §§4105(b)(2), 4302(a)(2)(A), substituted “under the influence of alcohol, or a dangerous drug in violation of a law of the United States” for “intoxicated” and struck out “, shall be” after “by the Secretary by regulation”.

Subsec. (c)(1). Pub. L. 101–380, §4302(a)(2)(B), substituted “is liable” for “liable”.

Subsec. (c)(2). Pub. L. 101–380, §4302(a)(2)(C), amended par. (2) generally. Prior to amendment, par. (2) read as follows: “fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”

1984—Subsecs. (c), (d). Pub. L. 98–557 added subsec. (c) and redesignated former subsec. (c) as (d).

Effective Date of 1998 Amendment

Pub. L. 105–383, title IV, §408(b), Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3431, provided that: “The amendment made by subsection (a) [amending this section] takes effect January 1, 1999.”

Effective Date of 1990 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 101–380 applicable to incidents occurring after Aug. 18, 1990, see section 1020 of Pub. L. 101–380, set out as an Effective Date note under section 2701 of Title 33, Navigation and Navigable Waters.

§2303. Duties related to marine casualty assistance and information

(a) The master or individual in charge of a vessel involved in a marine casualty shall—

(1) render necessary assistance to each individual affected to save that affected individual from danger caused by the marine casualty, so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master's or individual's vessel or to individuals on board; and

(2) give the master's or individual's name and address and identification of the vessel to the master or individual in charge of any other vessel involved in the casualty, to any individual injured, and to the owner of any property damaged.


(b) An individual violating this section or a regulation prescribed under this section shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 2 years. The vessel also is liable in rem to the United States Government for the fine.

(c) An individual complying with subsection (a) of this section or gratuitously and in good faith rendering assistance at the scene of a marine casualty without objection by an individual assisted, is not liable for damages as a result of rendering assistance or for an act or omission in providing or arranging salvage, towage, medical treatment, or other assistance when the individual acts as an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent individual would have acted under the circumstances.

(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 509.)

Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
2303(a) 33:367

46:1465(a)

2303(b) 33:368
2303(c) 46:1465(b)

Section 2303 requires a master or anyone in charge of a vessel to provide assistance and render aid to those involved in a marine casualty and to exchange information in a manner similar to automobile accident cases. It also includes a “Good Samaritan” clause that exonerates anyone from liability when rendering assistance in an ordinary, reasonable, or prudent manner.

§2303a. Post serious marine casualty alcohol testing

(a) The Secretary shall establish procedures to ensure that after a serious marine casualty occurs, alcohol testing of crew members or other persons responsible for the operation or other safety-sensitive functions of the vessel or vessels involved in such casualty is conducted no later than 2 hours after the casualty occurs, unless such testing cannot be completed within that time due to safety concerns directly related to the casualty.

(b) The procedures in subsection (a) shall require that if alcohol testing cannot be completed within 2 hours of the occurrence of the casualty, such testing shall be conducted as soon thereafter as the safety concerns in subsection (a) have been adequately addressed to permit such testing, except that such testing may not be required more than 8 hours after the casualty occurs.

(Added Pub. L. 105–383, title III, §304(d)(1), Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3419.)

§2304. Duty to provide assistance at sea

(a)(1) A master or individual in charge of a vessel shall render assistance to any individual found at sea in danger of being lost, so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master's or individual's vessel or individuals on board.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply to a vessel of war or a vessel owned by the United States Government appropriated only to a public service.

(b) A master or individual violating this section shall be fined not more than $1,000, imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both.

(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 509; Pub. L. 109–304, §15(8), Oct. 6, 2006, 120 Stat. 1703.)

Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
2304 46:728

Section 2304 requires a master or individual in charge of a vessel to render assistance to those in danger at sea if able to do so without seriously endangering the vessel or crew.

Amendments

2006—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 109–304 designated existing provisions as par. (1) and added par. (2).

§2305. Injunctions

(a) The district courts of the United States have jurisdiction to enjoin the negligent operation of vessels prohibited by this chapter on the petition of the Attorney General for the United States Government.

(b) When practicable, the Secretary shall—

(1) give notice to any person against whom an action for injunctive relief is considered under this section an opportunity to present that person's views; and

(2) except for a knowing and willful violation, give the person a reasonable opportunity to achieve compliance.


(c) The failure to give notice and opportunity to present views under subsection (b) of this section does not preclude the court from granting appropriate relief.

(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 509.)

Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
2305 46:1485

Section 2305 provides injunctive authority to enjoin the negligent operation of vessels. This authority can also be used to enjoin the operation of foreign or domestic vessels on our waters when they are unsuitable for the voyage intended.

§2306. Vessel reporting requirements

(a)(1) An owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent of a vessel of the United States, having reason to believe (because of lack of communication with or nonappearance of a vessel or any other incident) that the vessel may have been lost or imperiled, immediately shall—

(A) notify the Coast Guard; and

(B) use all available means to determine the status of the vessel.


(2) When more than 48 hours have passed since the owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent of a vessel required to report to the United States Flag Merchant Vessel Location Filing System under authority of section 50113 of this title has received a communication from the vessel, the owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent immediately shall—

(A) notify the Coast Guard; and

(B) use all available means to determine the status of the vessel.


(3) A person notifying the Coast Guard under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection shall provide the name and identification number of the vessel, the names of individuals on board, and other information that may be requested by the Coast Guard. The owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent also shall submit written confirmation to the Coast Guard within 24 hours after nonwritten notification to the Coast Guard under those paragraphs.

(4) An owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent violating this subsection is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each day during which the violation occurs.

(b)(1) The master of a vessel of the United States required to report to the System shall report to the owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent at least once every 48 hours.

(2) A master violating this subsection is liable to the Government for a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 for each day during which the violation occurs.

(c) The Secretary may prescribe regulations to carry out this section.

(Added Pub. L. 98–498, title II, §212(a)(3), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2305; amended Pub. L. 109–304, §15(9), Oct. 6, 2006, 120 Stat. 1703.)

Amendments

2006—Subsec. (a)(2). Pub. L. 109–304 substituted “section 50113 of this title” for “section 212(A) of the Merchant Marine Act, 1936 (46 App. U.S.C. 1122a),”.

Effective Date

Pub. L. 98–498, title II, §214, Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2306, provided that: “Sections 211(a) and 212 of this subtitle [enacting this section and amending sections 2302, 3309, 6101, and 6103 of this title] are effective one hundred and eighty days after the date of enactment of this Act [Oct. 19, 1984].”

Transfer of Functions

For transfer of authorities, functions, personnel, and assets of the Coast Guard, including the authorities and functions of the Secretary of Transportation relating thereto, to the Department of Homeland Security, and for treatment of related references, see sections 468(b), 551(d), 552(d), and 557 of Title 6, Domestic Security, and the Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan of November 25, 2002, as modified, set out as a note under section 542 of Title 6.

§2307. Limitation of liability for Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service pilots

Any pilot, acting in the course and scope of his or her duties while at a United States Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service, who provides information, advice, or communication assistance while under the supervision of a Coast Guard officer, member, or employee shall not be liable for damages caused by or related to such assistance unless the acts or omissions of such pilot constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct.

(Added Pub. L. 107–295, title IV, §431(a), Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2128.)

Transfer of Functions

For transfer of authorities, functions, personnel, and assets of the Coast Guard, including the authorities and functions of the Secretary of Transportation relating thereto, to the Department of Homeland Security, and for treatment of related references, see sections 468(b), 551(d), 552(d), and 557 of Title 6, Domestic Security, and the Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan of November 25, 2002, as modified, set out as a note under section 542 of Title 6.