Dockside Exam Page

Fish like there is a tomorrow - fish safe.

A web site for the Commercial Fishing Vessel Industry

Mandatory Dockside Safety Exams for most commercial fishing vessels.

All commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond 3 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline are mandated to have and successfully complete a Dockside Safety Exams. View Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin.

On successful completion of the Dockside Safety Exam your vessel will be issued a decal with an expiration date 2 years from the date issued. Your next mandatory exam must be completed within 5 years from the issue date of your most recent decal. That means your decal expires before you are required to get your next mandatory exam.

Vessels without having completed a mandatory exam within the last 5 years, if boarded, can expect to get a warning and must contact a fishing vessel examiner within 30 days to schedule a mandatory exam. Subsequent boardings of vessels found not to be in compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations may be subject to fines, enforcement, and control actions.

Vessels with a valid decal can expect to see abbreviated boarding times if issued in the last two years. Those vessels with decals that have expired (but are within the last 5 years) can expect boarding officers to conduct a more extensive examination of the vessels required safety equipment. (See guidance document)

It is important to note that commercial fishing vessels that are required to carry national marine fisheries services observers (NMFS) are required to have a valid decal issued within the last 2 years (not expired).

Preparing for your vessel exam

1. Use any desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone device - to determine the equipment your vessel is required to have. Launch the Checklist Generator answer the questions and create a list of the safety equipment your vessel is required to have. Print out a checklist to use on your vessel or take the list on your device to your vessel.

2. Use the checklists to examine your vessel. Ensure you have all of the required equipment and that everything is in serviceable condition. Using the checklist generator will greatly increase the odds of passing the exam on the first visit.

You can view additional information on what to look at for each item by selecting the "info" button to the right of each item on the checklist. It is here that you can also view any additional information such as regulations related to the item as well as other information and guidance.

3. Call to schedule a dockside exam. Call your nearest Coast Guard Dockside Examiner or USCG Accepted Third Party Examination Organization to schedule a visit to your vessel to conduct the exam. If your vessel has all of the required servicable equipment you will be issued a decal and written documentation that your vessel has passed the exam. The exam decal is issued for two years.

4. Keep equipment in serviceable condition during the period of your dockside exam decal. Items such as inflatable life rafts, life raft hydrostatic release units, EPIRB batteries and NOAA registration, certain first aid kit items, etc expire. Make sure that you examine all of the vessels safety items to ensure they stay in serviceable condition and that those items with expiration dates do not expired.

If you find any problems with the Checklist Generator please send me an e-mail at