Issues & Advocacy

Towing Vessel Inspection

The U.S. Coast Guard’s final rule to establish an inspection regime for towing vessels at 46 CFR Subchapter M has been published. For more information, please click here.

The publication of the towing vessel inspection rule is a significant milestone in AWO members’ quarter-century journey of continuous improvement to enhance safety and environmental stewardship, working with customers and the Coast Guard to achieve the goals of zero harm to human life, to the environment, and to property as we transport the nation’s waterborne commerce. The seeds of Subchapter M were sown by the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership in 2003, when a Coast Guard-AWO working group recommended that the Coast Guard establish a towing vessel inspection regime including a central role for safety management systems and oversight by Coast Guard-approved third parties. AWO strongly supported the 2004 legislation that authorized the Coast Guard to develop the towing vessel inspection regulations in order to raise safety standards throughout the tugboat, towboat and barge industry.

Over the past decade, AWO has worked closely with the Coast Guard through the Congressionally authorized Towing Safety Advisory Committee to provide input on the development of the inspection regulations. In December 2011, AWO submitted comprehensive comments on the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking expressing support for the effort and offering a number of technical recommendations to improve the proposed rule. In addition, AWO testified before Congress on the need for and benefits of a towing vessel inspection regime. Through the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership, AWO also supported the Coast Guard in establishing the Towing Vessel Bridging Program to ensure compliance with existing requirements and prepare both towing vessel operators and Coast Guard personnel for the transition to inspection.

Now that the rule has been published, AWO is committed to working with the Coast Guard to ensure that Subchapter M is implemented smoothly and effectively, with no interruption to waterborne commerce, and to helping all AWO members successfully navigate the transition to towing vessel inspection. We will also share information on the new rule with the entire towing vessel industry to facilitate compliance by all companies that own and or operate towing vessels.