Subchapter M: USCG answers FAQ's

JUNE 21, 2016 — Following the publication of subchapter M, Inspection of Towing Vessels, the Coast Guard has published a selection of frequently asked questions about the new requirements received by its Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise (TVNCOE). Here are a few of them.

Am I covered by this Rule?

You are covered by this rule if you operate a commercial towing vessel meeting the applicability provisions in section 136.105 of title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 46 CFR 136.105.

This rule is applicable to all U.S.-flag towing vessels as defined in § 136.110 engaged in pushing, pulling, or hauling alongside, except

A vessel less than 26 feet (7.92 meters) in length measured from end to end over the deck (excluding the sheer), unless that vessel is pushing, pulling, or hauling a barge that is carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk;

A vessel engaged in one or more of the following:Assistance towing as defined in § 136.110;Towing recreational vessels for salvage; or Transporting or assisting the navigation of recreational vessels within and between marinas and marina facilities, within a limited geographic area, as determined by the local Captain of the Port (COTP);

A workboat operating exclusively within a worksite and performing intermittent towing within the worksite;A seagoing towing vessel of 300 gross tons or more subject to the provisions of subchapter I of this chapter;

A vessel inspected under other subchapters of this chapter that may perform occasional towing;A public vessel as defined in 46 U.S.C. 2101;

A vessel that has surrendered its COI and is laid up, dismantled, or otherwise out of service; andA propulsion unit used for the purpose of propelling or controlling the direction of a barge where the unit is controlled from the barge, is not normally manned, and is not utilized as an independent vessel.

How can my company become a third-party organization?

An organization, which may include a business entity or an association, desiring to be approved as a TPO under 46 CFR part 139 must submit a written request to the Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise. The organization must provide the following information:

A description of the organization, including the ownership, structure, and organizational components;A general description of the clients being served or intended to be served;

A description of the types of work performed by the organization or by the principals of the organization in the past, noting the amount and extent of such work performed within the previous three years;

Objective evidence of an internal quality system based on American National Standards Institute/International Organization for Standardization/American Society of Quality Control Q9001-2000 or an equivalent quality standard;Organization procedures and supporting documentation that describe processes used to perform an audit and records to show system effectiveness;

Copies of checklists, forms, or other tools to be used as guides or for recording the results of audits and/or surveys;Organization procedures for appeals and grievances;The organization's code of ethics applicable to the organization and its auditors and/or surveyors;

A list of the organization's auditors and/or surveyors who meet the requirements of § 139.130 of subchapter M. This list must include the experience, background, and qualifications for each auditor and/or surveyor;

A description of the organization's means of assuring continued competence of its personnel;The organization's procedures for terminating or removing auditors and/or surveyors;

A description of the organization's means of assuring the availability of its personnel to meet the needs of the towing companies for conducting audits and surveys within the intervals established in subchapter M;

A description of the organization's apprentice or associate program for auditors and/or surveyors;

A statement that the Coast Guard may inspect the organization's facilities and records and may accompany auditors and/or surveyors in the performance of duties related to the requested approval;

Disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest;A statement that the organization, its managers, and employees engaged in audits and/or surveys are not, and will not be involved in any activities which could result in a conflict of interest or otherwise limit the independent judgment of the auditor, surveyor, or organization; and

Any additional information that the applicant deems pertinent.

Now that this rule is published, will the Towing Vessel Bridging Program decal become invalid?

Not right away. With the exception of some deferred items, all vessels must be in compliance with the applicable regulations in Subchapter M two years and 30 days after the final rule is published. As operations permit, the Coast Guard will continue to issue decals that will be valid until two years and 30 days after the final rule is published.

What is the advantage of using the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) option?

Under Subchapter M, companies that employ the TSMS option are afforded greater flexibility when to comes to the execution of surveys and audits and the timeliness for resolving incidents that might otherwise delay a towing vessel that relies exclusively on the Coast Guard option and therefore must wait on the availability of a Coast Guard marine inspector.

Use of a safety management system promotes continuous regulatory compliance, provides early warning of problems or deficiencies that could lead to accidents, and prevents accidents caused by equipment failure by ensuring continuous attention to routine vessel maintenance.

A safety management system continually monitors operations and collects appropriate data to identify emerging and developing safety problems before they result in death, injury, or significant property damage. Having identified these risks, these systems then devise interventions and evaluate how well these interventions perform at successfully mitigating risk.

For additional questions, please view the Subchapter M tab on the TVNCOE's website. The site will be updated to include new, and the most pertinent, frequently asked questions as they are received.

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