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 was published on July 20, 2016, and implemented on July 22, 2018. For more information on AWO’s work to support our members in the transition to towing vessel inspection, please click here.
The establishment of a towing vessel inspection regime 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. For the next decade, AWO worked closely with the Coast Guard and through the Congressionally authorized Towing Safety Advisory Committee to provide input on the development of Subchapter M, including in comments and Congressional testimony. 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.
Since the rule’s publication, AWO has been committed to working with the Coast Guard and Congress to ensure that Subchapter M is implemented smoothly and effectively, with no interruption to maritime commerce, and to helping all AWO members successfully navigate the transition to towing vessel inspection.