AWO welcomes implementation of Subchapter M

The following is text of a news release from the American Waterways Operators (AWO):

(ARLINGTON, Va.) — The American Waterways Operators, the national advocate for the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, is welcoming the implementation of long-awaited towing vessel safety regulations known as Subchapter M, taking effect July 20. The product of 15 years of close collaboration between the towing industry and the United States Coast Guard, these regulations will elevate safety standards across the industry while maximizing efficient use of limited Coast Guard resources.

Subchapter M takes safety in the towing industry to a new and historic level by setting baseline safety standards for all towing vessels, incorporating and building on the safeguards that AWO members have already voluntarily put in place, to now raise the regulatory floor for the entire industry and better protect people, the environment, and property. These regulations both recognize the important role of safety management systems in promoting a culture of safety and continuous regulatory compliance, and allow the Coast Guard to focus its resources on higher-risk towing vessels. Subchapter M accomplishes these goals by allowing vessel operators to choose between two compliance options – use of a towing safety management system (TSMS) audited by a Coast Guard-approved third party organization or annual Coast Guard inspections – while incentivizing operators to use the TSMS option.

AWO took the proactive step in 2003 of approaching the Coast Guard to offer support for establishing new towing vessel safety and inspection regulations, which led to the passage of legislation in 2004 authorizing the agency to begin the journey to Subchapter M. Over the next several years, AWO worked closely with the Coast Guard through the congressionally-authorized Towing Safety Advisory Committee to inform the development of the regulations. As the proposed rule made its way through the regulatory process, AWO also worked with the Coast Guard through the Towing Vessel Bridging Program to facilitate the transition to Subchapter M, establishing several working groups under the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership to strengthen lines of communication between the Coast Guard and vessel operators and assist operators in understanding and complying with the emerging regulatory requirements.

"The implementation of Subchapter M is a milestone to be celebrated," said AWO President and CEO Tom Allegretti. "AWO members approached the Coast Guard 15 years ago with the goal of making our industry safer for mariners, for the environment, and for all Americans who rely on maritime commerce to transport the building blocks of our economy. Thanks to many years of thoughtful collaboration with the Coast Guard, our industry now has a regulatory framework to deliver on that promise. This is a tremendous achievement, and while it is far from the end of our industry's safety journey, it is undoubtedly a critical milestone on the way." 

Additional background on Subchapter M is available here.

AWO's Countdown to Compliance series, a year-long communications series to help AWO member companies navigate the transition to Subchapter M, can be found here.

Previous AWO webinars on the transition to Subchapter M can be found here.

By Professional Mariner Staff