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Occupational Safety and Health Administration | Office of Maritime Enforcement | Washington, D.C.

Explanation of OSHA's Cargo Geat Accreditation & Certification Program


A. Coverage

OSHA's accreditation program is essentially one of an independent third-party providing an impartial inspection of certain maritime cargo handling devices specifically required to be certificated under OSHA's maritime safety and health standards. These standards are as follows:

  • 29 CFR Part 1915 - Shipyards
  • 29 CFR Part 1917 - Marine Terminals
  • 29 CFR Part 1918 - Longshoring

Successful applicants are granted accreditation to perform certification functions under OSHA's Cargo Gear Certification Regulations (29 CFR Part 1919). Under current Federal maritime safety and health standards, only certain types of material handling devices used in specifically designated maritime operations are required to be certificated. The following is a listing of the applicable standards:

1) Shipyards: 29 CFR Section 1915.115(a)(1) requires the certification of derricks and cranes which are part of, or regularly placed aboard barges, other vessels, or on the wingwalls of floating drydocks, and are used to transfer materials or equipment to a vessel or drydock. Cranes and derricks located at a shipbuilding/shipyard facility which are not directly involved with vessel transfer/movement of materials or equipment (e.g., shop cranes, yard cranes) do not require certification.

2) Marine Terminals: 29 CFR Section 1917.50(c) indicates the types of shore-based gear and material handling devices which are required to be certificated, such as each crane and derrick used to move cargo within a marine terminal unless specifically excluded in Section 1917.50(j). Specific requirements for cranes and derricks used in marine terminals are addressed by Section 1917.45. Material handling devices which are used at a marine terminal for purposes other than the movement/handling of cargo (e.g., overhead cranes and chain hoists which are located in maintenance shops, cranes and derricks engaged in construction projects) are not required to be certified.

Special stevedoring gear and spreaders used with certified shore-based material handling devices have additional certification, inspection and test requirements [1917.50(c)(5) and (6)] as follows:

  • Special stevedoring gear that has a Safe Working Load (SWL) greater than 10,000# shall be inspected and tested before initial use by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency, and, thereafter, tested every 4 years by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Special stevedoring gear that has a SWL 10,000# or less shall be inspected and tested before initial use by a Part 1919 Accredited Person or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Intermodal container handling spreader(s) shall be inspected and tested before initial use and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency.
  • Loose gear and wire rope obtained after October 3, 1983, per 1917.50(c)(6) shall be tested and certificated by the manufacturer or a Part 1919 Accredited Agency when placed in service.

3) Longshoring: 29 CFR Section 1918.11, indicates the type of permanently installed shipboard material handling devices that are required to be certificated when used in "longshoring operations." 29 CFR Section 1918.66, indicates the types of cranes and derricks brought aboard vessels (i.e., not permanently installed) that are required to be certificated when used in "longshoring operations." The term "longshoring operations" means the loading, unloading, moving, or handling of cargo, ship's stores, gear, etc., into, in, on, or out of any vessel on the navigable waters of the United States.

NOTE: This definition classifies the type of operation performed and not the classification of the employee performing the operation.

Special stevedoring gear and spreaders used with certified shipboard material handling devices have additional certification, inspection and test requirements [1918.61(d), (e), (f) and (g); and Appendix IV to Part 1918] as follows:

  • Special stevedoring gear that has a Safe Working Load (SWL) greater than 10,000# and which was purchased or manufactured on or after January 21, 1998, shall be inspected and tested before initial use and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency, and, thereafter, tested every 4 years by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Special stevedoring gear that has a SWL greater than 10,000# and which was in use prior to January 21, 1998, shall be tested every 4 years and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Special stevedoring gear that has a SWL of 10,000# or less and which was purchased or manufactured on or after January 21, 1998, or which was in use prior to January 21, 1998, shall be inspected and tested before initial use and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Intermodal container handling spreaders which are not part of vessel's gear and were purchased or manufactured on or after January 21, 1998, shall be inspected and tested before initial use and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency, and, thereafter, tested every 4 years by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."
  • Intermodal container handling spreaders which are not part of vessel's gear and were in use prior to January 21, 1998, shall be tested before initial use and prior to reuse after structural repair by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency or an employer "Designated Person."

Loose gear and wire rope used with Part 1919 certified devices in longshoring operations are required to be examined, tested and certified as follows:

  • The examination and testing of loose gear and wire rope for Vessel's cargo handling gear shall be verified by reviewing the ship's cargo gear register and certificates for foreign vessels to ensure compliance with ILO 152 or ILO 32 requirements (See 1918.11 for specific details), and for U.S. vessels a valid Certificate of Inspection from the Coast Guard (46 CFR Part 91), or certification every five years by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency to the requirements of 29 CFR 1919.14.
  • Loose gear and wire rope other than ship's gear which is supplied by the employer for use aboard the vessel, shall be examined, tested and certified in accordance with the requirements of 29 CFR 1919.14, before initial use, prior to reuse after structural repair, and every four years by a Part 1919 Accredited Agency.

We would like to emphasize that there are no OSHA regulations requiring the certification of cranes, derricks and material handling devices used in general industry operations [covered under 29 CFR Part 1910], or used in construction operations [covered under 29 CFR Part 1926]. Therefore, cranes, derricks and material handling devices used exclusively in general industry or construction operations are not required, under OSHA regulations, to be certificated by anyone. The owner must, however, maintain a record of inspections. For general industry and construction industry applications, OSHA regulations only require that such equipment be inspected during initial use and annually thereafter by a "competent person." There is wide latitude in the regulations as to the definition of a "competent person." A competent person does not have to be a disinterested third party. A competent person may be the equipment owner's maintenance personnel or any other person the owner chooses, as long as that person is deemed "competent." General industry standards for cranes are addressed under 29 CFR Section 1910.179 for "Overhead and gantry cranes" and 29 CFR Section 1910.180 for "Crawler, locomotive and truck cranes." Construction industry standards for cranes are addressed under 29 CFR Section 1926.550, for "Cranes and derricks."

B. Cargo Gear Certification Functions Aboard Vessels

The procedures and criteria for this function can be found in Subparts B, C, D and E of Part 1919. Performing full gear certification functions aboard vessels is a very difficult function to perform successfully on your own.

This section was originally written as a response by the United States to its responsibilities under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 32 concerning the inspection of a vessel's cargo gear, and was extended in January 1991 to also include ILO Convention No. 152. It has been our experience that virtually all shipowners, for pragmatic purposes of worldwide acceptance, utilize the services of the large internationally recognized and accepted certification bureaus operating worldwide. When a vessel's cargo handling gear is to be used during longshoring operations, the ship's "Cargo Gear Register" and the gear itself must be examined prior to beginning cargo handling operations. If the cargo gear is in apparent good working order and the vessel produces a current certification from the "Cargo Gear Register" which complies with 46 CFR 91.37 [U.S. Coast Guard regulations pertaining to American Flag Vessels], ILO Conventions No. 32 or No. 152 (pertaining to Foreign Flag Vessels), as applicable, then work can begin. U.S. vessels not holding a U.S. Coast Guard "Certificate of Inspection" (i.e., uninspected vessels) must be in compliance with 29 CFR Sections 1919.14 and 1919.15.

United States inspected vessels (i.e., vessels holding a U.S. Coast Guard "Certificate of Inspection") come under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for cargo gear certification. Those individuals or organizations seeking to perform cargo gear certification functions aboard United States inspected vessels must apply to and be approved by the USCG. To our knowledge, the only American companies currently accredited by the USCG to perform this function are the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the International Cargo Gear Bureau (ICGB) and the National Cargo Bureau (NCB). Thus OSHA's accreditation program does not apply to Coast Guard inspected vessels. It also does not apply to foreign flag vessels.

United States vessels not required to hold a "Certificate of Inspection" by the USCG (i.e., Uninspected Vessels) are required to have their cargo handling gear certificated under OSHA's Maritime Cargo Gear Certification Regulations (29 CFR Part 1919).

There is also a regulatory requirement that an agency or agent accredited in this field must perform at least 1500 hours of vessel gear certification work each year in order to maintain accredited status. [See 29 CFR Section 1919.6(a)(2)]

C. Certification of Shore-Based Material Handling Devices

The procedures and criteria for this function can be found in Subparts B, F, G and H of 29 CFR Part 1919.

Applicants for accreditation to carry out certification activities on shore-based material handling devices and to issue and maintain the requisite records must either be:

  1. A manufacturer of cranes or derricks or of specialized equipment of the type for which accreditation application is made; or
  2. A person or organization representing such a manufacturer in a technical capacity; or
  3. A person or organization technically experienced and qualified to carry out examinations and/or testing, as applicable, of shore-based equipment or gear of the type for which accreditation application is made.

Applicants must indicate in a statement, those qualifications which establish that they are technically experienced and qualified to inspect and test the equipment for which they seek accreditation. These qualifications can be demonstrated by their educational background and experience which clearly show that they have extensive knowledge in the structural integrity, technical characteristics, limitations, etc., for the types of equipment inspected in the past.

D. Loose Gear and Wire Rope Testing

The procedures and criteria for this function can be found in Subparts B and C of 29 CFR Part 1919. A person applying for accreditation to perform loose gear and wire rope testing shall have been engaged in one or both of these activities. Successful application for this function would also require ownership of a pull test machine and the personal knowledge of its use. In addition, calibration reports dated less than six months old and traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) must be submitted along with resumes of all personnel who would be performing tests to establish that they are technically qualified to perform the required tests and examinations. We want to stress the fact that a dynamometer is not acceptable as fulfilling the "pull test machine" criteria.

We also want to point out that only the loose gear and wire rope which constitute part of a vessel's cargo handling gear is required to be tested and certificated by an accredited agency under OSHA regulations. Loose gear used with shore-based material handling devices is not required to be tested and certificated by an accredited agency. Wire rope certificates are required, but may be issued by the wire rope manufacturer or his authorized representative, normally the supplier of the wire rope. Thus, OSHA accreditation to perform loose gear or wire rope tests does not create any new business for a company.

There is also a regulatory requirement that an agency must perform at least 1500 hours of OSHA required (for vessel certification) loose gear and wire rope testing in order to maintain an accredited status.

E. Non-Destructive Examination

We want to emphasize that the use of non-destructive examinations are not required under current OSHA regulations and, if utilized, represents only a minor portion of the inspection procedures which must be followed to certificate certain maritime material handling devices. Such an examination is an option that may be exercised by the accredited person conducting the certification survey.

In the past, a few agencies were accredited for this function alone, however, it is not necessary to be accredited because such examinations are normally performed at the request of an accredited agency and to their instructions and acceptance.

F. Applicability and Restrictions Placed on Accredited Individuals or Agencies

As stated previously, OSHA's accreditation program is essentially one of an independent third-party providing an impartial inspection of certain maritime material handling devices specifically required to be certificated under OSHA's safety and health standards for maritime employment.

OSHA takes great pains to ensure that individuals or agencies granted accreditation do not result in or create even the appearance of any conflict of interest, favoritism, partiality or dependence in performing certification surveys. It is essential that OSHA accredited individuals and agencies maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity and impartiality in order to maintain confidence, respect and assure the proper performance of OSHA's certification program.

As a consequence, OSHA cannot accredit the following:

  1. An individual or firm for the sole purpose of inspecting their own equipment.
  2. An individual or firm primarily engaged in the maintenance, repairing, leasing, selling or manufacturing of such equipment.
  3. An individual who is currently an employee of a company other than his own.
  4. An individual or firm on the basis of a governmental contract or a private employer's requirements, when such accreditation to certificate devices is not specifically required to comply with the above mentioned maritime safety and health regulations.
  5. An individual who was employed as a "Surveyor" with another OSHA accredited agency, unless he or she agrees not to perform any OSHA required certification surveys on equipment which has been previously inspected by that accredited agency until one year has elapsed from the date that the applicant was no longer officially an employee with that accredited agency.

As previously mentioned OSHA has no control over the requirements of private employers or the requirements of other Federal or public agencies. However, OSHA can only grant accreditation and allow the use of its official certification forms under the criteria specified in its cargo gear certification regulations, which is limited to the certification of certain types of material handling devices used in specifically designated maritime activities.

Therefore, OSHA will not grant accreditation to firms or individuals that do not intend to be primarily engaged in examining and testing material handling devices under current OSHA maritime safety and health regulations. OSHA also will not renew the accreditation of firms or individuals that have not performed any OSHA required certification surveys during the previous accreditation period.

G. Evaluation of Applicants Seeking Accreditation

Applicants for accreditation under OSHA's Cargo Gear Certification Regulations, 29 CFR Part 1919, must state their intention to inspect material handling devices which are required to be certificated under OSHA's safety and health standards for shipyards, marine terminals and longshoring. The procedures and criteria governing accreditation to certificate a vessels cargo handling gear can be found in Subparts B, C, D and E of 29 CFR Part 1919. For shore-based material handling devices the criteria and procedures can be found in Subparts B, F, G and H of 29 CFR Part 1919.

In becoming accredited, applicants are primarily evaluated on their background and experience in examining and testing all types of material handling devices found in maritime employment.

We want to stress that while experience in operating, servicing, maintaining, repairing, installing and inspecting cranes and derricks, all adds to an applicant's credibility -- it is not, by itself, sufficiently broad enough to allow us to grant accreditation. In order to qualify for accreditation, an applicant must also demonstrate that his/her educational background and hands-on experience clearly indicates that he/she has extensive knowledge in the structural integrity, technical characteristics, limitations, etc., of all types of cranes and derricks found in the maritime industry. Accompanying an OSHA accredited certificatory on a few crane certification inspections or attending a few short-term courses would not be sufficient experience to enable us to grant accreditation.

Applicants must include as much detail as possible concerning the various sizes, types and number of equipment pieces surveyed, as well as a detailed description of how they conduct their inspections and to who's specifications or standards. Representative samples of field worksheets for the type of equipment(s) inspected must also be included. The type of survey we look for is a complete inspection covering the structural, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic components of the equipment surveyed.

H. Liability Insurance and Suits

We also want to emphasize that the errors and omissions insurance that any prudent accredited individual or firm needs in order to provide protection from liability suits arising from the failure of material handling devices is becoming extremely expensive and difficult to obtain. It is not uncommon for such suits to run into the millions of dollars.

I. Processing Formal Applications Seeking Accreditation

Applicants seeking accreditation should feel free to contact OSHA at (202) 693-2399 while working on their formal application or when it is completed. Applicants must mail two copies of the completed formal application (the OSHA 70 form) and all supporting documentation to:

  • Mr. Steve Butler
  • Office of Maritime Enforcement
  • U.S. Department of Labor - OSHA
  • Room N-3610
  • 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20210

When the completed formal application is received, OSHA will notify the applicant in writing that the application has been received and will contact all the references listed on the formal application. The references listed must be individuals who have first-hand knowledge and can verify the applicant's expertise in the inspection and testing of material handling devices used in the maritime industry that require certification. Their satisfactory response constitutes a necessary and vital part of the application process. When the complete application and responses from the listed references have been reviewed as satisfactory, a meeting is arranged between the applicant and a representative from this office. The purpose of the meeting is to explain the applicant's responsibilities as an accredited agency, review the applicable regulations, and arrive at a final determination on the applicant's accreditation.

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