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Assessment Framework and Organizational Restatement Regarding Preemption for Certain Regulations Issued by the Coast Guard; Proposed Rule (Docket USCG-2008-1259) issued Dec. 27, 2013, and originating from the Coast Guard's Office of Maritime and International Law. Original deadline for comment, March 27, 2014.

The comment period was extended until May 26, 2014, and public meetings on the NPRM were held on May 13 in Arlington, VA, and May 16, in Seattle, WA. To view submitted comments and materials from the public meetings, go to, enter the docket number USCG-2008-1259 in the SEARCH field, and open the docket folder.

To view NASBLA's submitted comments and a sampling of NASBLA State member comments, see Resources on the NPRM or go to


Proposed Rule Summary: The Coast Guard proposes to issue a rule containing its assessment framework for, and restating its position regarding, the federalism implications of regulations issued under the authority of various statutes within Titles 33 and 46 of the United States Code. This notice requests comments on the proposal and, pursuant to Executive Order 13132, invites State and local governments to consult during its development.

This proposal would amend 33 CFR Part 1 by adding a subpart 1.06. The proposed rule covers seven categories of regulations.

Preemption: Three forms of preemption apply in the context of the regulation of vessels and all are referred to in this NPRM:

  • Express preemption, which applies when Congress expressly and specifically precludes state regulation in a given area;
  • Conflict preemption, which applies in cases where courts find that state regulation conflicts with a federal statute or regulation, or where compliance with both the state law and federal law or regulation is not possible, or where state law is an obstacle to accomplishing the federal purpose; and
  • Field preemption, which applies when the federal regulatory regime permeates a specific area of regulation to the extent that courts conclude that Congress hasn’t left any room for state regulation. With field preemption, even if the Coast Guard has not issued a regulation or made an express statement, state rules are preempted where Congress intended to “occupy the field.”

Coverage of regulations in the NPRM: The proposed rule covers seven categories of regulations.1




PWSA Title I

Vessel Operations

Conflict Preemption


Tank Vessel Design, Construction, Equipment, Repair, Manning, Crew Qualifications and Operations

Field Preemption

PWSA Titles I/II Overlap Rules


Overlap Analysis

46 U.S.C. §§ 3201-3205

Vessel Safety Management

Field Preemption

46 U.S.C. §§ 3301-3318

Inspected Vessels

Field Preemption

46 U.S.C. §§ 3717 & 6101

Marine Safety Information and Casualty Reporting

Field Preemption

33 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1912

Act to Prevent Pollution/MARPOL Implementation

Conflict Preemption

1 Acknowledgment to Craig H. Allen, Judson Falknor Professor of Law, University of Washington. Table appears in Allen's paper “The Coast Guard’s Proposed Maritime Preemption Assessment Framework: What It May Foretell about the Coming Towing Vessel Inspection Rule" (submitted to the USCG-2008-1259 docket).


How the proposed rule would operate: In the case of future regulatory projects, the proposal lays out the criteria and process the Coast Guard will take in evaluating the preemptive impact of the regulations. But the proposed rule also describes the Coast Guard’s interpretation of the preemptive effect(s) of certain of its regulations already on the books even if a complete description of the federalism implications was already articulated in the development of those regulations.

Resources on the NPRM:

Example of a preemption issue identified in USCG-2008-1259: a question raised about interpreting the preemptive effect of 33 CFR Part 173 subpart C (casualty and accident reporting) as it is stated in the proposed rule.

NASBLA Comments on Docket No. USCG-2008-1259, submitted 27 March 2014
       Ohio Comments

Changes to Standard Numbering System, Vessel Identification System, and Boating Accident Report Database; 33 CFR Parts 173, 174, 181, 187

Issuance of Final Rule, March 28, 2012

Guidance SNS/VIS/BARD Final Rule September 5, 2012

HIN Format


Summary: The Coast Guard is amending its regulations related to numbering undocumented vessels and reporting boating accidents. These changes align and modernize terminology used in the Standard Numbering System (SNS), the Vessel Identification System, and accident reporting; require verification of vessel hull identification numbers; require SNS vessel owners to provide personally identifiable information; and provide flexibility for States and territories in administering these regulations. Together, the changes are intended to improve boating safety efforts, enhance law enforcement capabilities, clarify requirements for all stakeholders, and promote the Coast Guard strategic goals of maritime safety and security.

In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for changes to the Standard Numbering System (SNS), Vessel Identification System (VIS), and Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) [Docket USCG-2003-14963]. Background and resources associated with the NPRM, including NASBLA's submission to the docket, are available below. All comments – the bulk of which were submitted by the states – still can be found at under Docket USCG-2003-14963.

On March 28, 2012, the Final Rule was published in the Federal Register. It became effective 30 days after publication (April 27, 2012). However, the implementation date for major changes in provisions regarding casualty and accident reporting and the standard numbering system is January 1, 2017.

The Final Rule document provides a wealth of information. See especially, Part  V, which describes the nature of the comments received in 2010 and their disposition, and Table 1--Changes Made By This Rule, which articulates not only the sections of 33 CFR that are affected, but also the changes proposed in the 2010 NPRM and the changes FROM the NPRM TO this Final Rule.

Among the significant changes from the NPRM’s provisions TO this Final Rule:

  • Deferral of the implementation for new requirements associated with the standard numbering system (SNS) for more than four full years, to January 2017, instead of the three years that had been proposed in the NPRM.
  • Modification of an original proposal regarding affixing Hull Identification Numbers (HINs) by state personnel. As a result of concerns expressed regarding burden and cost, the provision in the Final Rule has been modified such that each state may use methods of its own choosing to verify that each vessel's owner has affixed a valid, primary HIN.
  • While the NPRM’s proposed 11 categories of Vessel Types -- with authorized terms and definitions – are included as part of the intended harmonization of terms with the SNS and VIS, other proposals that would have altered the report content in significant ways (for example, the inclusion of descriptions of vessel operations and activity and accompanying authorized terms and definitions), have been set aside for purposes of this Rule, at this time, in anticipation of the development of more comprehensive regulatory and policy proposals regarding accident reporting.

Resources on the SNS, VIS, BARD NPRM

NASBLA Comments on Docket No. USCG-2003-14963, submitted 15 October 2010 Download
Changes to Standard Numbering System, Vessel Identification System,
and Boating Accident Report Database  [Docket No. USCG–2003–14963]

USCG-2003-14963 - comment reopened 08-16-2010.pdf
(Notice of reopening of comment period - new deadline Oct. 15, 2010)


Summary - proposed changes - 33 CFR Parts 173 174 187_USCG-2003-14963.pdf
(Bullet point summary of proposed changes to 33 CFR Parts 173, 174, 187)

Markup 33 CFR Part 173_proposed revisions_ USCG-2003-14963.pdf
(Tracks proposed changes to 33 CFR 173 (BARD)
Markup 33 CFR Part 174_proposed revisions_ USCG-2003-14963.pdf
(Tracks proposed changes to 33 CFR 174 (SNS))
Markup 33 CFR Part 187_proposed revisions_USCG-2003-14963.pdf
(Tracks proposed changes to 33 CFR 187 (VIS))
NASBLA ERAC Guidance Reports.pdf
(Includes reports produced by NASBLA's Engineering, Reporting & Analysis Committee in 2009 and 2010: Recommended Guidelines for Investigators and BARD-Web Data Entry Personnel: Types of Boating Accidents and Contributing Factors/Causes Defined (August 2009); and Recommended Guidance for Investigators and BARD-Web Data Entry Personnel: Vessel Type, Activity, Operation—Terms and Definitions (Revised August 2010))
Changes to SNS, VIS & BARD, presentation from NASBLA 2010 Annual Conference Download