Request for Information on National Reform of Regional Observer Program Insurance Requirements, 32829-32831 [2018-15057]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 136 / Monday, July 16, 2018 / Proposed Rules sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS governments, or the agency consults with State and local government officials early in the process of developing the regulation. This proposed rule has been analyzed consistent with the principles and criteria in Executive Order 13132. This proposed rule would not have a substantial effect on the States or their political subdivisions; it would not impose any substantial direct compliance costs; and it would not affect the relationships between the Federal government and the States or their political subdivisions, or the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, the consultation and funding requirements of Executive Order 13132 do not apply. However, this proposed rule could have preemptive effect under certain provisions of the Federal railroad safety statutes, specifically the former Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 (former FRSA), repealed and re-codified at 49 U.S.C. 20106, and the former Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act (LIA) at 45 U.S.C. 22–34, repealed and recodified at 49 U.S.C. 20701–03. The former FRSA provides that States may not adopt or continue in effect any law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety or security that covers the subject matter of a regulation prescribed or order issued by the Secretary of Transportation (with respect to railroad safety matters) or the Secretary of Homeland Security (with respect to railroad security matters), except when the State law, regulation, or order qualifies under the ‘‘local safety or security hazard’’ exception to section 20106. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has held the former LIA preempts the field concerning locomotive safety. See Napier v. Atl. Coast Line R.R., 272 U.S. 605 (1926) and Kurns v. R.R. Friction Prods. Corp., 565 U.S. 625 (2012). Therefore, if this proposed rule were adopted, it is possible States would be preempted from requiring that locomotives display a permanent badge or tag certifying the locomotive complies with FRA’s noise emission standards. Environmental Impact FRA has evaluated this proposed regulation consistent with its ‘‘Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts’’ (FRA’s Procedures), 64 FR 28545 (May 26, 1999), as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), other environmental statutes, Executive Orders, and related regulatory requirements. FRA has determined this proposed regulation is VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:54 Jul 13, 2018 Jkt 244001 not a major FRA action (requiring the preparation of an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment) because it is categorically excluded from detailed environmental review pursuant to section 4(c)(20) of FRA’s Procedures. 64 FR 28547–48. Under section 4(c) and (e) of FRA’s Procedures, the agency has further concluded no extraordinary circumstances exist with respect to this regulation that might trigger the need for a more detailed environmental review. Consequently, FRA finds this proposed regulation is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 Under Section 201 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 1531, each Federal agency ‘‘shall, unless otherwise prohibited by law, assess the effects of Federal regulatory actions on State, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector (other than to the extent that such regulations incorporate requirements specifically set forth in law).’’ Section 202 of the Act, 2 U.S.C. 1532, further requires that before promulgating any general notice of proposed rulemaking that is likely to result in promulgation of any rule that includes any Federal mandate that may result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100,000,000 or more (adjusted annually for inflation) in any 1 year, and before promulgating any final rule for which a general notice of proposed rulemaking was published, the agency shall prepare a written statement detailing the effect on State, local, and tribal governments and the private sector. The proposed rule would not result in the expenditure, in the aggregate, of $100,000,000 or more in any one year (adjusted annually for inflation), and thus preparation of such a statement is not required. Privacy Act In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these comments, without edit, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice, DOT/ALL–14 FDMS, accessible through www.dot.gov/privacy. In order to facilitate comment tracking and response, we encourage commenters to provide their name, or the name of their organization; however, submission of names is completely optional. Whether or not commenters identify themselves, all timely comments will be fully considered. If you wish to provide comments containing proprietary or PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 32829 confidential information, please contact the agency for alternate submission instructions. List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 210 Noise control. The Proposed Rule For the reasons discussed in the preamble, FRA proposes to amend part 210 of chapter II, subtitle B of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows: ■ 1. The authority citation for part 210 is revised to read as follows: Authority: Sec. 17, Pub. L. 92–574, 86 Stat. 1234 (42 U.S.C. 4916); 49 CFR 1.89. § 210.27 [Amended] 2. Amend § 210.27 by removing paragraph (d). ■ Issued in Washington, DC. Ronald Louis Batory, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2018–14961 Filed 7–13–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–06–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 648, 660, and 679 RIN 0648–XG338 Request for Information on National Reform of Regional Observer Program Insurance Requirements National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notification; Request for Information (RFI). AGENCY: NMFS requests information from the public to support a national initiative to reform and streamline observer program insurance requirements. The goals of this reform effort are to: ease the regulatory burden and reduce costs for private companies that provide observer staffing to NMFS observer programs through more efficient, nationally applicable insurance requirements; eliminate outdated and/or inappropriate regulatory requirements; reduce observer deployment risks for vessel owners and shore side processors; and identify insurance that could improve observer safety and facilitate full compensation for observer occupational injuries. To proceed with this effort, NMFS seeks technical information on the types of insurance and minimum coverage amounts (in dollars) that SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\16JYP1.SGM 16JYP1 32830 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 136 / Monday, July 16, 2018 / Proposed Rules sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS would minimize observer deployment risks to the extent practicable considering costs and other factors. Additionally, NMFS seeks public comment on Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) claims and benefits processing for observer occupational injuries and whether observer companies should carry private insurance to supplement FECA benefits for observers. DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before September 14, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by any of the following methods: • Email: NMFS-HQ-ST.InsuranceReform@NOAA.GOV. Please include the subject heading of ‘‘Comments on Regional Observer Program RFI’’. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, or Adobe PDF formats only. • Mail: Dennis Hansford, 1315 East West Highway, Room 12506, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: Comments containing references, studies, research, and other empirical data that are not widely published should include copies or electronic links of the referenced materials. All submissions, including attachments and other supporting materials, will become part of the public record and subject to public disclosure. Sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or Social Security numbers, or names of individuals, should not be included. Submissions will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. Comments that contain profanity, vulgarity, threats, or other inappropriate language will not be considered. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information should be directed to Dennis Hansford, 301–427–8136 or dennis.hansford@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Overview The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., establishes a national program for conservation and management of fishery resources within the United States Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). See id. 1801(a)(6), 1811(a). NMFS, acting under authority delegated from the Secretary of Commerce, is responsible for managing fisheries under the MSA, in conjunction with eight regional fishery VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:54 Jul 13, 2018 Jkt 244001 management councils (Councils) established under the Act. See id. 1852(a). Each Council has authority to develop fishery management plans (FMPs) for fisheries in a specific geographical area and to deem proposed regulations that are necessary for plan implementation. See id. 1852(a), (c). Collection of information on fishing and fish processing, such as type and quantity of fishing gear used, catch in numbers of fish or weight thereof, fishing locations, and biological information, are critical to effective fishery management. See id. 1853(a)(5). To obtain this information, the MSA authorizes, among other things, that an FMP may ‘‘[r]equire that one or more observers be carried on board a vessel of the United States engaged in fishing for species that are subject to the plan, for the purpose of collecting data necessary for the conservation and management of the fishery . . .’’. See id. 1853(b)(8). In 2016, 53 fisheries subject to management under an FMP or international authority were monitored by observer programs. To carry out required observer coverage, NMFS administers 14 observer programs that operate in the agency’s five regions. These programs train and deploy observers, establish information collection protocols, debrief observers following deployment to provide quality control on information that observers collect, and oversee private companies that provide program support. At present, all NMFS observer programs staff their at-sea and shore side observer deployments through private companies, commonly referred to as observer providers. Observer providers service NMFS regional observer programs under two distinct models: (1) Direct service, where the NMFS observer program contracts with an observer provider; and (2) industryfunded, where the observer provider contracts with industry to fulfill observer coverage requirements. Further information about NMFS’ regional observer programs is available at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/fisheryobservers. While observers most frequently are deployed under the MSA to collect information on fishing vessels, observers also are deployed on motherships, and shore side processing facilities. Additionally, NMFS’ regional observer programs deploy at-sea monitors, who collect only vessel catch information under ‘‘catch share programs,’’ which allocate a portion of a fishery total allowable catch to permit holders or sectors. For purposes of this RFI, the term ‘‘observer’’ refers to a person deployed in any of these roles. PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Observer Deployment Risks The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries ranks commercial fishing as one of the most dangerous occupations. Because most observers are deployed to fishing vessels, observer risk of occupational injury is on par with that of commercial fishermen. Observer programs also entail risks for observer employers— private companies—and the fishing vessels and shore side processors that are subject to observer coverage. The risks for the three parties include:— 1. Observers—risk of occupational injury. 2. Vessel owners and shore side processors—observer claims for compensation for incidents arising out of deployment, e.g., occupational injury. 3. Private companies—observer claims for compensation for incidents arising out of deployment, e.g., occupational injury, and vessel/shore side processor owner claims for damages resulting from observer negligence. Insurance and statutory compensation programs are the traditional mechanisms to address the risks that private companies entail. However, the nuances of maritime law combined with the unique nature of the fishery observer occupation have complicated efforts to address observer risks, whether through insurance or statutory program. Since 1994, Councils and NMFS have taken various efforts to resolve insurance issues for observer programs. These efforts have resulted in regulatory—or contract based—insurance requirements that differ across regions. At present, the types of insurance policies that observer providers are required to have, either by regulation or by contract, include the following: • Maritime liability to cover ‘‘seamen’s claims’’ under the Merchant Marine Act (Jones Act) and General Maritime Law • U.S. Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act • State Worker’s Compensation • Contractual General Liability • Marine General Liability • Commercial General Liability • Marine Employers Liability Regulatory based observer provider insurance requirements are codified at 50 CFR 679.52(b)(11)(vi) (North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program), 50 CFR 660.17(e)(vii) (West Coast Groundfish Observer Program), and 50 CFR 648.11(h)(3) (Northeast Observer Program). In addition, Congress addressed compensation for observer occupational risks through the 1996 Sustainable E:\FR\FM\16JYP1.SGM 16JYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 136 / Monday, July 16, 2018 / Proposed Rules Fisheries Act (SFA). Public Law 104– 297 (Oct. 11, 1996). Through that statute, Congress amended the MSA to deem observers to be federal employees for purposes of FECA while deployed on a vessel under the Act or the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 16 U.S.C. 1881b(c). The extension of FECA coverage to observers deployed at-sea filled a gap in coverage for observer occupational injuries that occur at-sea, but this extension is not applicable to shore side observers. NMFS Reevaluation of Observer Program Insurance Requirements sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Beginning in 2014, NMFS initiated a reevaluation of regional observer program insurance requirements. This effort included an Observer Provider Insurance Workshop in 2016 during which observer providers, insurance experts, and observers joined NMFS and representatives from other federal agencies to discuss the efficiency of observer provider insurance requirements and compensation for observer occupational injuries. Subsequent to the Insurance Workshop, NMFS published an Observer Provider Insurance Workshop Technical Report (Tech Report), available at https:// spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/tech-memos, which summarized the Workshop’s proceedings and identified actions that NMFS could take to reform observer program insurance requirements and facilitate compensation for observer occupational injuries. As detailed in the Tech Report, some of the insurance policies that observer providers are required to have are inapplicable to observers or have limited applicability depending on whether the claim concerns an injury sustained at-sea or on shore. Furthermore, prior to the publication of the Tech Report, it was noted that other forms of insurance generally not required, such as a Marine General Liability policy, may better address certain observer company risks. In addition, NMFS has learned that, while FECA does provide coverage for observer at-sea injuries, the compensation formula under that Act does not provide for overtime pay. Because observers typically work 12–16 hour shifts to correspond with fishing VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:54 Jul 13, 2018 Jkt 244001 vessel crew shifts, they often do not receive full wage compensation for occupational injury claims under FECA. To address these issues, the Tech Report recommended that NMFS explore replacing regional insurance requirements with nationally applicable minimum insurance requirements. The goal of that action would be to streamline and improve the efficiency of regional observer provider insurance requirements, thereby resulting in reduced regulatory burden, cost savings, and a suite of insurance that better addresses observer deployment risks. Considering the highly technical nature of maritime insurance and insurance markets in general, the Tech Report recommended that NMFS first gather more information on the types of insurance and minimum dollar coverage amounts for the risks that observer deployments present. NMFS issues this RFI to gather that information through the questions below. In addition, NMFS seeks public comment on the related issue of FECA compensation for observer occupational injuries and whether some form of private insurance could supplement FECA benefits. National inconsistencies with observer compensation for occupational injuries were noted not only in the Tech Report, but also in the Observer Program Safety Review (OPSR) Final Report, available at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/ document/observer-safety-programreview-report. The OPSR recommended that NMFS initiate action to improve the insurance scheme for compensation of observer occupational injuries. Through this notification, NMFS seeks information to respond to that recommendation and ways that insurance can improve observer safety. Request for Information To reform and streamline observer provider insurance requirements, and facilitate observer compensation for atsea occupational injuries under FECA, NMFS seeks public comment on the issues raised in this RFI and, in particular, on the following questions. See ADDRESSES for information on how to submit comments. 1. What insurance policies and coverage amounts (in dollars) are PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 32831 appropriate to address observer deployment risks for: (a) Observers, (b) observer providers, and (c) owners of vessel and shore side processors and other observing platforms? 2. If observer providers have different insurance requirements to cover the different contexts in which observers are deployed—at-sea and shore side, what would be the most feasible and efficient insurance package and associated dollar amounts for covering all of the various contexts? 3. As an alternative to national minimum insurance requirements, would it be feasible, and more efficient, for observer providers to self-organize and self-insure? 4. If an insurance policy for a Jones Act or General Maritime Law claim is required, acknowledging that courts in some jurisdictions have held that those claims are inapplicable to observers, might it be beneficial to continue the requirement? 5. What gaps, if any, are there in FECA coverage for observer occupational injuries? For observers, what, if any, problems have you experienced with regard to claims and benefits for occupational injuries, whether under FECA, state worker’s compensation, or private insurance? 6. If there are gaps in FECA coverage, is there a type of private insurance that could supplement FECA compensation for observer occupational injuries? 7. What types of insurance could advance NMFS’ efforts to improve the safety of observer programs and reduce the occurrence of observer occupational injuries? 8. To maximize efficiency of observer insurance requirements, should NMFS address the requirements regionally, through regional regulatory or contractual insurance requirements, or through nationally applicable minimum insurance standards? If a, what regional or national policies and dollar amounts of coverage would be appropriate? Dated: July 10, 2018. Edward C. Cyr, Director, Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–15057 Filed 7–13–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\16JYP1.SGM 16JYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 136 (Monday, July 16, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 32829-32831]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-15057]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 648, 660, and 679

RIN 0648-XG338


Request for Information on National Reform of Regional Observer 
Program Insurance Requirements

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notification; Request for Information (RFI).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS requests information from the public to support a 
national initiative to reform and streamline observer program insurance 
requirements. The goals of this reform effort are to: ease the 
regulatory burden and reduce costs for private companies that provide 
observer staffing to NMFS observer programs through more efficient, 
nationally applicable insurance requirements; eliminate outdated and/or 
inappropriate regulatory requirements; reduce observer deployment risks 
for vessel owners and shore side processors; and identify insurance 
that could improve observer safety and facilitate full compensation for 
observer occupational injuries. To proceed with this effort, NMFS seeks 
technical information on the types of insurance and minimum coverage 
amounts (in dollars) that

[[Page 32830]]

would minimize observer deployment risks to the extent practicable 
considering costs and other factors. Additionally, NMFS seeks public 
comment on Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) claims and 
benefits processing for observer occupational injuries and whether 
observer companies should carry private insurance to supplement FECA 
benefits for observers.

DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before 
September 14, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by any of the following 
methods:
     Email: [email protected]. Please 
include the subject heading of ``Comments on Regional Observer Program 
RFI''. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft 
Word or Excel, or Adobe PDF formats only.
     Mail: Dennis Hansford, 1315 East West Highway, Room 12506, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Instructions: Comments containing references, studies, research, 
and other empirical data that are not widely published should include 
copies or electronic links of the referenced materials. All 
submissions, including attachments and other supporting materials, will 
become part of the public record and subject to public disclosure. 
Sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or Social 
Security numbers, or names of individuals, should not be included. 
Submissions will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact 
information. Do not submit confidential business information, or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information. Comments that contain 
profanity, vulgarity, threats, or other inappropriate language will not 
be considered.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information 
should be directed to Dennis Hansford, 301-427-8136 or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Overview

    The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), 
16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., establishes a national program for conservation 
and management of fishery resources within the United States Exclusive 
Economic Zone (EEZ). See id. 1801(a)(6), 1811(a). NMFS, acting under 
authority delegated from the Secretary of Commerce, is responsible for 
managing fisheries under the MSA, in conjunction with eight regional 
fishery management councils (Councils) established under the Act. See 
id. 1852(a). Each Council has authority to develop fishery management 
plans (FMPs) for fisheries in a specific geographical area and to deem 
proposed regulations that are necessary for plan implementation. See 
id. 1852(a), (c).
    Collection of information on fishing and fish processing, such as 
type and quantity of fishing gear used, catch in numbers of fish or 
weight thereof, fishing locations, and biological information, are 
critical to effective fishery management. See id. 1853(a)(5). To obtain 
this information, the MSA authorizes, among other things, that an FMP 
may ``[r]equire that one or more observers be carried on board a vessel 
of the United States engaged in fishing for species that are subject to 
the plan, for the purpose of collecting data necessary for the 
conservation and management of the fishery . . .''. See id. 1853(b)(8).
    In 2016, 53 fisheries subject to management under an FMP or 
international authority were monitored by observer programs. To carry 
out required observer coverage, NMFS administers 14 observer programs 
that operate in the agency's five regions. These programs train and 
deploy observers, establish information collection protocols, debrief 
observers following deployment to provide quality control on 
information that observers collect, and oversee private companies that 
provide program support. At present, all NMFS observer programs staff 
their at-sea and shore side observer deployments through private 
companies, commonly referred to as observer providers. Observer 
providers service NMFS regional observer programs under two distinct 
models: (1) Direct service, where the NMFS observer program contracts 
with an observer provider; and (2) industry-funded, where the observer 
provider contracts with industry to fulfill observer coverage 
requirements. Further information about NMFS' regional observer 
programs is available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/fishery-observers.
    While observers most frequently are deployed under the MSA to 
collect information on fishing vessels, observers also are deployed on 
motherships, and shore side processing facilities. Additionally, NMFS' 
regional observer programs deploy at-sea monitors, who collect only 
vessel catch information under ``catch share programs,'' which allocate 
a portion of a fishery total allowable catch to permit holders or 
sectors. For purposes of this RFI, the term ``observer'' refers to a 
person deployed in any of these roles.

Observer Deployment Risks

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational 
Injuries ranks commercial fishing as one of the most dangerous 
occupations. Because most observers are deployed to fishing vessels, 
observer risk of occupational injury is on par with that of commercial 
fishermen. Observer programs also entail risks for observer employers--
private companies--and the fishing vessels and shore side processors 
that are subject to observer coverage. The risks for the three parties 
include:--
    1. Observers--risk of occupational injury.
    2. Vessel owners and shore side processors--observer claims for 
compensation for incidents arising out of deployment, e.g., 
occupational injury.
    3. Private companies--observer claims for compensation for 
incidents arising out of deployment, e.g., occupational injury, and 
vessel/shore side processor owner claims for damages resulting from 
observer negligence.
    Insurance and statutory compensation programs are the traditional 
mechanisms to address the risks that private companies entail. However, 
the nuances of maritime law combined with the unique nature of the 
fishery observer occupation have complicated efforts to address 
observer risks, whether through insurance or statutory program. Since 
1994, Councils and NMFS have taken various efforts to resolve insurance 
issues for observer programs. These efforts have resulted in 
regulatory--or contract based--insurance requirements that differ 
across regions. At present, the types of insurance policies that 
observer providers are required to have, either by regulation or by 
contract, include the following:

 Maritime liability to cover ``seamen's claims'' under the 
Merchant Marine Act (Jones Act) and General Maritime Law
 U.S. Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act
 State Worker's Compensation
 Contractual General Liability
 Marine General Liability
 Commercial General Liability
 Marine Employers Liability

    Regulatory based observer provider insurance requirements are 
codified at 50 CFR 679.52(b)(11)(vi) (North Pacific Groundfish Observer 
Program), 50 CFR 660.17(e)(vii) (West Coast Groundfish Observer 
Program), and 50 CFR 648.11(h)(3) (Northeast Observer Program).
    In addition, Congress addressed compensation for observer 
occupational risks through the 1996 Sustainable

[[Page 32831]]

Fisheries Act (SFA). Public Law 104-297 (Oct. 11, 1996). Through that 
statute, Congress amended the MSA to deem observers to be federal 
employees for purposes of FECA while deployed on a vessel under the Act 
or the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 16 U.S.C. 1881b(c). The extension 
of FECA coverage to observers deployed at-sea filled a gap in coverage 
for observer occupational injuries that occur at-sea, but this 
extension is not applicable to shore side observers.

NMFS Reevaluation of Observer Program Insurance Requirements

    Beginning in 2014, NMFS initiated a reevaluation of regional 
observer program insurance requirements. This effort included an 
Observer Provider Insurance Workshop in 2016 during which observer 
providers, insurance experts, and observers joined NMFS and 
representatives from other federal agencies to discuss the efficiency 
of observer provider insurance requirements and compensation for 
observer occupational injuries. Subsequent to the Insurance Workshop, 
NMFS published an Observer Provider Insurance Workshop Technical Report 
(Tech Report), available at https://spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/tech-memos, which 
summarized the Workshop's proceedings and identified actions that NMFS 
could take to reform observer program insurance requirements and 
facilitate compensation for observer occupational injuries. As detailed 
in the Tech Report, some of the insurance policies that observer 
providers are required to have are inapplicable to observers or have 
limited applicability depending on whether the claim concerns an injury 
sustained at-sea or on shore. Furthermore, prior to the publication of 
the Tech Report, it was noted that other forms of insurance generally 
not required, such as a Marine General Liability policy, may better 
address certain observer company risks.
    In addition, NMFS has learned that, while FECA does provide 
coverage for observer at-sea injuries, the compensation formula under 
that Act does not provide for overtime pay. Because observers typically 
work 12-16 hour shifts to correspond with fishing vessel crew shifts, 
they often do not receive full wage compensation for occupational 
injury claims under FECA.
    To address these issues, the Tech Report recommended that NMFS 
explore replacing regional insurance requirements with nationally 
applicable minimum insurance requirements. The goal of that action 
would be to streamline and improve the efficiency of regional observer 
provider insurance requirements, thereby resulting in reduced 
regulatory burden, cost savings, and a suite of insurance that better 
addresses observer deployment risks. Considering the highly technical 
nature of maritime insurance and insurance markets in general, the Tech 
Report recommended that NMFS first gather more information on the types 
of insurance and minimum dollar coverage amounts for the risks that 
observer deployments present. NMFS issues this RFI to gather that 
information through the questions below.
    In addition, NMFS seeks public comment on the related issue of FECA 
compensation for observer occupational injuries and whether some form 
of private insurance could supplement FECA benefits. National 
inconsistencies with observer compensation for occupational injuries 
were noted not only in the Tech Report, but also in the Observer 
Program Safety Review (OPSR) Final Report, available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/observer-safety-program-review-report. The OPSR recommended that NMFS initiate action to 
improve the insurance scheme for compensation of observer occupational 
injuries. Through this notification, NMFS seeks information to respond 
to that recommendation and ways that insurance can improve observer 
safety.

Request for Information

    To reform and streamline observer provider insurance requirements, 
and facilitate observer compensation for at-sea occupational injuries 
under FECA, NMFS seeks public comment on the issues raised in this RFI 
and, in particular, on the following questions. See ADDRESSES for 
information on how to submit comments.
    1. What insurance policies and coverage amounts (in dollars) are 
appropriate to address observer deployment risks for: (a) Observers, 
(b) observer providers, and (c) owners of vessel and shore side 
processors and other observing platforms?
    2. If observer providers have different insurance requirements to 
cover the different contexts in which observers are deployed--at-sea 
and shore side, what would be the most feasible and efficient insurance 
package and associated dollar amounts for covering all of the various 
contexts?
    3. As an alternative to national minimum insurance requirements, 
would it be feasible, and more efficient, for observer providers to 
self-organize and self-insure?
    4. If an insurance policy for a Jones Act or General Maritime Law 
claim is required, acknowledging that courts in some jurisdictions have 
held that those claims are inapplicable to observers, might it be 
beneficial to continue the requirement?
    5. What gaps, if any, are there in FECA coverage for observer 
occupational injuries? For observers, what, if any, problems have you 
experienced with regard to claims and benefits for occupational 
injuries, whether under FECA, state worker's compensation, or private 
insurance?
    6. If there are gaps in FECA coverage, is there a type of private 
insurance that could supplement FECA compensation for observer 
occupational injuries?
    7. What types of insurance could advance NMFS' efforts to improve 
the safety of observer programs and reduce the occurrence of observer 
occupational injuries?
    8. To maximize efficiency of observer insurance requirements, 
should NMFS address the requirements regionally, through regional 
regulatory or contractual insurance requirements, or through nationally 
applicable minimum insurance standards? If a, what regional or national 
policies and dollar amounts of coverage would be appropriate?

    Dated: July 10, 2018.
Edward C. Cyr,
Director, Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-15057 Filed 7-13-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P