33 CFR § 104.215 - Vessel Security Officer (VSO).

(a) General.

(1) A VSO may perform other duties within the owner's or operator's organization, provided he or she is able to perform the duties and responsibilities required of the VSO for each such vessel.

(2) For manned vessels, the VSO must be the Master or a member of the crew.

(3) For unmanned vessels, the VSO must be an employee of the company, and the same person may serve as the VSO for more than one unmanned vessel. If a person serves as the VSO for more than one unmanned vessel, the name of each unmanned vessel for which he or she is the VSO must be listed in the Vessel Security Plan (VSP).

(4) The VSO of any unmanned barge and the VSO of any towing vessel interfacing with the barge must coordinate and ensure the implementation of security measures applicable to both vessels during the period of their interface.

(5) The VSO may assign security duties to other vessel personnel; however, the VSO remains responsible for these duties.

(6) The VSO must maintain a TWIC.

(b) Qualifications. The VSO must have general knowledge, through training or equivalent job experience, in the following:

(1) Those items listed in § 104.210 (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this part;

(2) Vessel layout;

(3) The VSP and related procedures, including scenario-based response training;

(4) Crowd management and control techniques;

(5) Operations of security equipment and systems;

(6) Testing and calibration of security equipment and systems, and their maintenance while at sea; and

(7) TWIC.

(c) Certification required. After July 1, 2009, persons performing duties as VSO on-board a seagoing vessel subject to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended, must hold a valid Coast Guard-issued credential with a Vessel Security Officer endorsement. The Coast Guard will issue this endorsement only if the person meets the requirements in paragraph (d) of this section. This endorsement serves as proof that the person meets the ship security officer requirements of Regulation VI/5 of the STCW.

(d) Requirements for Coast Guard Endorsement: (1) To qualify for a VSO endorsement, a person must:

(i) Be at least 18 years of age;

(ii) Be able to speak and understand the English language as would be relevant to the duties of a VSO;

(iii) Hold any valid Coast Guard-issued credential under the regulations specified in 46 CFR Subchapter B;

(iv) Successfully complete a Coast Guard-accepted VSO course;

(v) Sea Service. Fulfill one of the following:

(A) Have approved sea service of not less than 12 months on any vessel subject to § 104.105 of this part, credited in accordance with 46 CFR 10.205(e), 10.211, and/or 10.213; or

(B) Have approved sea service of not less than 6 months on any vessel subject to § 104.105 of this part, credited in accordance with 46 CFR 10.205(b), 10.211, and/or 10.213, and have knowledge of vessel operations.

(2) To qualify as a Coast Guard-accepted course a VSO course under paragraph (d)(1)(iv) of this section must require candidates to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and proficiency in the following competencies:

(i) Maintaining and supervising the implementation of a vessel security plan;

(ii) Assessing security risk, threat and vulnerability;

(iii) Undertaking regular inspections of the vessel to ensure that appropriate security measures are implemented and maintained;

(iv) Ensuring that security equipment and systems, if any, are properly operated, tested and calibrated;

(v) Encouraging security awareness and vigilance; and

(vi) Ensuring compliance with the TWIC program requirements.

(3) Candidates meeting the knowledge of vessel operations requirement under paragraph (d)(1)(v)(B) of this section must provide evidence through training or equivalent job experience, in the following areas:

(i) Basic vessel layout and construction:

(A) Understanding layout, including decks, rooms and space numbering; and

(B) Understanding of various vessel types; and working knowledge of nautical terms and definitions, especially those used to describe areas and parts of a vessel.

(ii) Shipboard organization: familiarity with the various departments and related functions, the titles used for personnel, the roles and responsibilities of these persons, and the chain of command.

(iii) Shipboard safety:

(A) Understanding of the importance of creating and maintaining safe working and living conditions for passengers and crew alike;

(B) General shipboard safety rules, emergency alarms and signals, and responses to and reporting of accidents;

(C) Proper usage of protective equipment and general knowledge of procedures for entering enclosed spaces;

(D) Proper usage of lifesaving equipment and where such equipment is normally stowed aboard various vessel types;

(E) Understanding of the operating principles of and proper use of watertight and fire screen doors; and

(F) Understanding where it is safe to smoke and not safe to smoke on board and in port.

(iv) Protection of the marine environment:

(A) Understanding of vessel personnel's responsibility to preserve the marine environment; and

(B) Basic working knowledge of pollution prevention regulations and techniques.

(v) Familiarity with key definitions, terminology, and operational practices employed in the maritime industry.


(i) Persons meeting the criteria in paragraphs (d)(4)(i)(A) and (B) of this section prior to the effective date of this regulation may successfully complete a refresher Coast Guard-accepted VSO course no later than July 1, 2009, to fulfill (d)(1)(iv) of this section. Persons must have:

(A) At least six months of VSO experience during the preceding three years; or

(B) Successfully completed a VSO course that was not approved by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) on behalf of the Coast Guard. Maritime Administration approves VSO courses under section 109 of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-295.

(ii) To be eligible to take a refresher Coast Guard-accepted VSO course, a person must present to the course provider documentary evidence that he or she meets the criteria in (d)(4)(i) of this section.

(5) Vessel Security Officer courses meeting the training requirements in paragraphs (d)(2) and (d)(4) of this section are subject to Coast Guard acceptance under 46 CFR 10.309(a)(10)(ii).

(6) Vessel Security Officer courses approved by MARAD on behalf of the Coast Guard under section 109 of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-295 will be accepted by the Coast Guard under 46 CFR 10.309 as meeting the requirements of paragraphs (d)(1)(iv) and (d)(2) of this section.

(7) Persons who hold a valid “Vessel Security Officer” endorsement may serve as vessel or company personnel with security duties (33 CFR 104.220), and as all other vessel personnel (33 CFR 104.225), without meeting any additional requirements.

(e) Responsibilities. In addition to those responsibilities and duties specified elsewhere in this part, the VSO must, for each vessel for which he or she has been designated:

(1) Regularly inspect the vessel to ensure that security measures are maintained;

(2) Ensure maintenance and supervision of the implementation of the VSP, and any amendments to the VSP;

(3) Ensure the coordination and handling of cargo and vessel stores and bunkers in compliance with this part;

(4) Propose modifications to the VSP to the Company Security Officer (CSO);

(5) Ensure that any problems identified during audits or inspections are reported to the CSO, and promptly implement any corrective actions;

(6) Ensure security awareness and vigilance on board the vessel;

(7) Ensure adequate security training for vessel personnel;

(8) Ensure the reporting and recording of all security incidents;

(9) Ensure the coordinated implementation of the VSP with the CSO and the relevant Facility Security Officer, when applicable;

(10) Ensure security equipment is properly operated, tested, calibrated and maintained; and

(11) Ensure consistency between security requirements and the proper treatment of vessel personnel affected by those requirements.

(12) Ensure TWIC programs are in place and implemented appropriately.

[USCG-2003-14749, 68 FR 39302, July 1, 2003, as amended at 68 FR 60513, Oct. 22, 2003; USCG-2006-24196, 72 FR 3580, Jan. 25, 2007; USCG-2008-0028, 73 FR 29070, May 20, 2008; 73 FR 34191, June 17, 2008; USCG-2007-28915, 81 FR 57710, Aug. 23, 2016]

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