Bisso Towboat gets ISM certification for its tug fleet

Alma S. is one of 13 tugs in Bisso Towboat’s fleet. All of them received ISM certification from the American Bureau of Shipping. (Brian Gauvin)

Bisso Towboat of New Orleans received ISM certification in November 2008 from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). As a domestic company operating on the Mississippi River, Bisso was not required to comply with the ISM guidelines set forth by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), but it is glad it did.

“It’s been a real improvement for the company,” said Capt. Jonathan Davis, vice president of safety and quality, who was hired by Bisso in 2007 to implement ISM. “It has allowed us to document processes that were assumed in the past. We made some corrections that needed to be made. We keep a much more detailed log that gives employees more information.”

Provisions of the ISM code go beyond Coast Guard regulations pertaining to safety and pollution prevention and place a direct responsibility on shoreside management to ensure that a company’s vessels meet IMO standards. Each company establishes and implements a safety management system tailored to its operations.

“We were banking on the Coast Guard tightening rules, and rather than going with a cookie-cutter plan we thought it would be better to have one designed for this company,” Davis said. “We wrote a company manual and had it certified by ABS to ISM standards. We operated under that plan for approximately 100 days, then commenced to have each one of our tugs audited by ABS.”

Implementing ISM has brought a favorable reaction from Bisso’s customers, many of whom handle international cargo.

“We sent out a notice that we were building a new tractor tug and that the company was now voluntarily ISM-certified,” Davis said. “The replies to the notice were 5-to-1 congratulating us on becoming ISM-certified over the announcement for the new tug. Our tanker customers have to be ISM-certified, so they were somewhat impressed that we took it upon ourselves to do it.”

By Professional Mariner Staff