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Coast Guard Releases Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) on GMDSS Requirements for Commercial Fishing Vessels Operating in Alaska.

View the MSIB


On January 20, 2015 the Coast Guard declared Sea Area A1 for the United States excluding Alaska. The Coast Guard also announced that it would not declare Sea Area A1 for Alaska. Since then there has been some confusion whether the commercial fishing vessel exemption still existed for vessels operating in Alaska.

Recently the FCC notified the Coast Guard that the existing commercial fishing vessel exemption was no longer valid and that all commercial fishing vessels 300 gross tons and greater operating in Alaska waters would have to comply with carriage requirements for either Sea Area A3 or A4 depending on how far north the vessel operates. There is insufficient coverage of coast stations in Alaska to allow operating with equipment only for Sea Areas A1 or A2.

Optional Use of Regulatory Tonnage

Commercial fishing, fish tender and fish processing vessels operating in Alaska with a gross tonnage of 300 or more are required to comply with the GMDSS requirements.

  • For vessels measured using the International Tonnage Convention (ITC) rules only, the ITC gross tonnage will be used to determine applicability of GMDSS requirements.
  • Vessels measured under the Regulatory Tonnage measurement system or both, may use the Regulatory gross tonnage to determine the applicability of GMDSS requirements when on domestic voyages.

View GMDSS task force document on this topic.

Timeline for compliance

Owners must, at the next annual inspection for certification by a licensed GMDSS Maintainer, have the maintainer generate a list of equipment that is needed in order to comply with FCC GMDSS regulations. This list must be provided to the appropriate Sector, along with a proposed time line for coming into compliance.

By the next annual inspection for certification but no later than 31 December, 2020, vessels shall have GMDSS in full compliance absent any legitimate FCC waivers requested/submitted by the owner/GMDSS Licensed Maintainer.

As a reminder vessels are required to have two GMDSS operators onboard.


Questions for the FCC, or for requests for exemptions, contact: Mr. Ghassan Khalek,

Questions for the Coast Guard should be directed to Mr. Bob Cuddeback at Sector Puget Sound or Mr. Russ Hazlett at Sector Anchorage