46 CFR 196.15-20 - Hatches and other openings.
(a) It shall be the responsibility of the master to assure himself that all exposed hatches and other openings in the hull of his vessel are closed, made properly watertight by the use of tarpaulins, gaskets or similar devices, and in all respects properly secured for sea before leaving protected waters.
(b) The openings to which this section applies are as follows:
(1) Exposed hatches.
(2) Gangway and other ports fitted below the freeboard deck.
(3) Port lights that are not accessible during navigation, including the dead lights for such port lights.
(c) The master at his discretion may permit hatches or other openings to remain uncovered or open, or to be uncovered or opened for reasonable purposes such as ship's maintenance while the vessel is being navigated: Provided, That in his opinion existing conditions warrant such action.
(d) In the event the master employs the discretionary provisions of this section after leaving port he shall cause appropriate entries to be made in the official log or equivalent thereof setting forth the time of uncovering, opening, closing or covering of the hatches or other openings to which this section applies and the circumstances warranting the action taken.
(e) The discretionary provisions of this section shall not relieve the master of his responsibility for the safety of his vessel, equipment or persons on board.