OSMS and YOU: Marine Investigations

This blog post is the 18th in a series of posts highlighting the various specialties and sub-specialties offered by the recently launched Officer Specialty Management System. Stay tuned as we share key information about each specialty/sub-specialty in the coming weeks!



Written by Lt. Cmdr. Randy Waddington

The Coast Guard has been responsible for conducting marine casualty investigations since the Steamboat Inspection Service was formed in 1874. Currently, the investigation program resides within the Coast Guard’s Prevention Directorate and employs approximately 200 uniformed and civilian staff stationed domestically and internationally and includes two National Centers of Expertise.

Investigators or IOs assigned to Coast Guard units are designated with carrying out investigations of vessel accidents within the maritime domain. The primary purpose of a marine casualty investigation is to determine the cause or causes of the accident. The findings of Coast Guard investigations are used to assist in preventing reoccurrence of accidents, which is often accomplished through safety alerts or safety recommendations for regulation or policy changes.

If violations of statute or regulation are discovered and substantiated based upon solid evidence, it may result in either the initiation of administrative Suspension & Revocation or S&R against a Merchant Mariner Credential or MMC or pursuit of civil penalty action against the responsible party. Administrative proceedings against a mariner’s MMC are adjudicated before an Administrative Law Judge. Civil penalty cases are prepared by IO’s and are referred to a Hearing Officer for adjudication.

Regardless of the type of investigation, they are a means to promote safety of life and property at sea and to protect the marine environment. The Investigations Program is considered by many to be an advanced level within the Coast Guard Marine Safety community. Therefore, aspiring IO’s should posses a deep familiarity with marine safety laws and regulations through prior training and qualifications, generally as a Marine Inspector prior to being assigned as an IO.

Currently, the requirements to obtain the OAP-12 sub-specialty comprise three qualifications; Maritime Casualty Investigator (CVSFO), Suspension & Revocation Investigator (CVSFN) and either Maritime Enforcement Investigator (MAREO) or Suspension & Revocation Hearing Officer (CVSRO). Additionally, at least one vessel navigation or propulsion related Marine Inspection qualification port state control or domestic is required. Finally, successful completion of both the MS Investigating Officer course (MS-603) and Suspension & Revocation course (MS-604) are required. This sub-specialty and other associated prevention sub-specialties may be found on the Officer Specialty Management System Internet website.

For further information regarding OAP-12; Marine Investigations, please contact the specialty manager, Lt. Cmdr. Randy Waddington via email at randy.s.waddington@uscg.mil.


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