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USCG Vessel Recertification Program

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While this tutorial is written with the small commercial operation and independent contractor in mind the same information can apply to any size vessel or company. Recreational vessels can gain the same sort of benefits a commercial operation can.

A small boatyard with good knowledge only needs to refit a few boats per year to have substantial income. If you are looking for expanded operations for your yard then recertification work is worth considering. The administrative process is the most daunting part for some yards but it's actually a reasonable process.

Refit vs Recertification

A vessel can undergo a significant refit and still not qualify for recertification. All regulations applied to a new build must be applied to the refit. Your boat will essentially become a new boat because it will be up to date with regulations and meet coast guard criteria for operation. If the boat was originally built in 1957 and is recertified in 2013 then the registration will have the year written as 57/13 and you will enjoy the insurance benefits of a new 2013 vessel.

This means everything on the vessel must be brought current with all new build regulations. Have some very old and toxic bottom paint under all those layers? It has to go. In metal vessels the paint will often need to be stripped from the entire surface of the hull for inspection.

Metal hull repairs need to be completed by a certified welder, composite boats need similarly trained contractors to do repairs. It's possible for a welder with limited experience to complete an ideal metal hull repair. A local community collage course and some practice can save plenty of money on hull repair. They probably have courses for composites too.

You can count on a high degree of disassembly during the rebuild. Parts need to be organized and stored so round up boxes, bins, jars, and a digital camera to photograph the parts so they go back together again with no extras.

A notepad is helpful for things you can't photograph and for taking notes as you move through the vessel. Serial and part numbers are tough to read if they are rusted or dirty. Taking a rubbing with paper and pencil is one solution and manipulating the image in photoshop can reveal numbers if contrast and color is tweaked.

Your Recertification Plan

So you have decided to go ahead and write your plan. This is a good idea if you are going to share work with the yard. It will help clarify the situation. If you are contracting with a yard that does this type of work regularly then the plan will be generated as part of their initial assessment.

The actual plan needs to be reviewed by USCG officials for compliance and completeness. Remember the words compliance and completeness every time you sit down to work on the plan.

A pre-planning document is helpful to write a comprehensive plan with good technical detail that will be impressive to regulators and sure to make this major project as inexpensive as possible.

There are three parts we need to complete before moving on to the next stage. The first will be a very detailed survey of the vessel as it is. This is definitely a job to be done on the hard.

Some of this information will only be available if headliners are removed, access hatches cleared of paint for removal, and disruption of interior spaces. Don't worry about the "how" just yet, we will get to that soon.

You need an honest assessment of every hole and fastener, thru hull fittings need to come out and be checked, stanchion bases might need removal to check for integrity. Many things will be broken and torn up during the assessment.

Collect all the documentation for the vessel and equipment since you will nee to compare specifications with current guidelines.

The next phase means identifying your boat and its use under USCG regulations. Are you going to carry commercial passengers? There are special guidelines. Are you in a pollution protected harbor? You might need special treatment gear. Have equipment regulations changed since the boat was built? Can it qualify under expanded regulations like the upcoming changes to STCW in 2017?

The final portion of this pre-plan is the timeline. How long will it take to do each required task. The project can be cost projected at this point with a good degree of accuracy.

In Part Two we will begin writing the plan system by system.

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