Tuesday, June 21, 2016

USCG Announces New Towing Vessel Regulations

By Mark Edward Nero

New regulations that establish requirements for the design, construction, operation and onboard equipment of towing vessels were released by the US Coast Guard on June 20.

With certain exceptions, the regulations apply to US-flag towing vessels 26 feet or more in length and those less than 26 feet moving barges carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk.

The rule lays out new compliance options as well as new equipment, construction and operational requirements for towing vessels.

The rule, which includes provisions covering specific electrical and machinery requirements for new and existing towing vessels, the use and approval of third-party organizations and procedures for obtaining inspection certificates, becomes effective July 20.

However, some regulations are being phased-in over time, and existing towing vessels will have an additional two years before having to comply with most of the requirements.

Vessel operators will have the choice of two inspection regimes. Under the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) option, routine inspections of towing vessels will primarily be performed by third-party organizations (TPOs), including certain classification societies, and this rule creates a framework for oversight and audits of such TPOs by the Coast Guard.

The TSMS will provide those operators with the flexibility to tailor their safety management system to their own needs, while still ensuring an overall level of safety acceptable to the Coast Guard.

Alternatively, under the Coast Guard inspection option, routine inspections would be conducted by the Coast Guard, providing an option for those operators who choose not to develop and implement their own TSMS.

The new rule is expected to affect about 5,500 US flag towing vessels engaged in pushing, pulling, or hauling alongside, as well as the nearly 1,100 companies that own or operate them.
The complete final rule can be read on the Federal Register website: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/06/20/2016-12857/inspection-of-towing-vessels