Updated FAQs published for Subchapter M

The following is text from a blog post on Coast Guard Maritime Commons:

(WASHINGTON) — The Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise recently published the latest additions and updates to the frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Subchapter M, inspected towing vessels. As a convenience for our readers, in this post Maritime Commons is providing a compilation of those changes. To access the full library of FAQs regarding Subchapter M, visit TVNCOE’s website.

Subchapter M FAQs added or updated as of Aug. 27:


FAQ G-001 – When will we have an inspection form to use as a checklist to assist industry to prepare for inspections?

The TugSafe job aid is available at the TVNCOE website. TugSafe is designed to assist with preparation, completion and documentation of inspections or surveys of commercial towing vessels required to comply with 46 CFR Subchapter M. The job aid will generate a custom requirement list for a specific commercial towing vessel using any computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. CG-CVC is developing job aids that will also be posted upon completion.

FAQ G-008 – Will industry representatives be allowed to train along with USCG personnel when preparing for vessel inspections similar to classes we attended at Yorktown and Paducah?

The Coast Guard does not currently have training planned at this time that is similar to those provided at Yorktown and Paducah. However, based on demand and funding availability, the Coast Guard may attend industry days to provide training and updates for vessel inspections.

FAQ G-040 – If  an operator was to choose the Coast Guard Inspection option, could they also in lieu request TPO oversight to cover weekends, holidays, and after hour repairs as we do with class? This would be placed into their TSMS as option.

No, there is no blending of the Coast Guard and TSMS options for individual vessels. However, the Coast Guard may accept TPO reports as objective evidence to resolve deficiencies.

Parts 1, 2, & 15

FAQ 15-004 – Does a towing vessel operating exclusively within a worksite that pushes fuel barges require an officer endorsement or license?

Yes. All towing vessels, including vessels less than 26 feet pushing, pulling, or hauling a barge that is carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk is subject to inspection under Subchapter M regardless of the location of the operation (e.g. worksite). Per 46 CFR §15.515(c), towing vessels subject to inspection under Subchapter M will be required to have an individual who holds an appropriate license or officer endorsement on their MMC operating the vessel if they are pushing, pulling, or hauling a barge that is carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk while operating within a worksite. Unless the barge has been gas-freed, it is considered to still be carrying cargo.

Part 136-Certification

FAQ 136-018 – Is a fleet boat exempt from Subchapter M? (updated)

This does not include the movement of barges carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk. All towing vessels, regardless of size, involved in the movement of barges carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk shall be certificated and manned in accordance with their COI. A fleet boat may be exempt from Subchapter M provided that the vessel is operating exclusively in a Limited Geographic Area as defined in 46 CFR §136.110 as determined by the local Captain of the Port (COTP), and that the vessel meets the excepted vessels provisions as coordinated with their local OCMI.

Part 137 – Vessel Compliance

FAQ 137-021 – What must occur prior to a TSMS vessel receiving its initial COI? (updated)

The process that must occur prior to issuance of an initial COI is as follows:

1. 6 Months Before COI Inspection – If the TSMS and company are in compliance with Sub M requirements, the TPO approves the TSMS. The TPO conducts a management audit and issues a TSMS certificate to the company.

2. Vessel Surveys and Audits – The company completes an internal vessel survey and an external vessel audit under the internal survey program. The TPO completes an external vessel survey and an external vessel audit under the external survey program.

3. 3 Months Before COI Inspection – Company schedules initial COI with the OCMI.

4. 30 Days Before COI Inspection – Company submits application for inspection to the OCMI, along with objective evidence as per §§136.210 and 137.202.

5. Initial COI Inspection – The Coast Guard conducts the inspection and COI is issued.

* In some cases a decal will be accepted as the inspection for an initial COI.

§136.210 also discusses the process that an owner or managing operator must follow in order to schedule a COI inspection. In addition, the preamble to the regulation, page 40032, column 2, provides a short sequence of events for issuance of a COI.

Finally, in accordance with §138.315(b)(1), an external vessel audit is required 6 months prior to issuance of the initial COI, for vessels subject to an owner or managing operator’s TSMS that have been owned or operated for 6 or more months. For vessels subject to an owner or managing operator’s TSMS that have been owned or operated for fewer than 6 months, §138.315(b)(2) requires that an external audit must be conducted no later than 6 months after the issuance of the initial COI.

FAQ 137-023 – Will there be a standardized inspection form for drydock?

No. There will not be a standardized inspection form for drydock, but the Subchapter M job aid is under development and will include drydock references.

FAQ 137-027 – To what standard are we holding grandfathered doublers on the hull for inland river boats?

Referring to §144.200, an existing vessel may be deemed by the OCMI or TPO, to be in compliance with structural standards provided that the vessel is built, equipped, and maintained to conform to the rules of a recognized class society appropriate for the intended service and routes, but not classed. Existing vessels can also be deemed compliant if the vessel has been both in satisfactory service insofar as structural adequacy is concerned and does not cause the structure of the vessel to be questioned by either the OCMI, or TPO engaged to perform an audit or survey. See also FAQ 137-029 on guidelines to determine acceptable hull structure integrity and 137-032 on criteria to determine degree of wastage, pitting, and improper repairs.

FAQ 137-036 – How will the Coast Guard establish dates for hull examinations and internal structural examinations (ISEs) for vessels inspected under Subchapter M?

The hull exam and ISE dates will be based on the issuance date of the COI.

Part 139 – Third Party Organizations

FAQ 139-017 – Will CG recognize TVIB auditor certification for proof of experience vs. the Subchapter M reference of 2 management audits and 6 vessel audits in last 5 years?

It is not necessary for the Coast Guard to recognize the certification program of a TPO. It is the TPO’s responsibility to ensure they employ qualified auditors and surveyors in accordance with §139.130.

Part 140 – Operations

FAQ 140-025 –Are Coast Guard approved Bridge Resource Management courses required for master, mate, pilot credential holders under Sub Chapter M? (updated)

Yes, in accordance with Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW). There is no requirement under Subchapter M.

46 CFR 11.463 General requirements for national endorsements as master, mate (pilot), and apprentice mate (steersman) of towing vessels.

(f) Deck officers who serve on the following seagoing vessels must comply with the requirements of §11.309 (Requirements to qualify for an STCW endorsement as Officer in charge of a navigational watch (OICNW) of vessels of 500 GT or more (operational level)) and §11.311 (Requirements to qualify for an STCW endorsement as master of vessels of 500 GT or more and less than 3,000 GT (management level)) of this subpart for the appropriate STCW endorsement:

(1) A towing vessel on an oceans voyage operating beyond near-coastal waters.
(2) A towing vessel on an international voyage.
(3) A towing vessel of 200 GRT or more on a domestic, near-coastal voyage.

(g) Endorsements as mate (pilot) or master of towing vessels may be issued with a restriction to specific types of towing vessels and/or towing operations such as articulated tug barge (ATB) vessels that do not routinely perform all of the tasks identified in the Towing Officer Assessment Record (TOAR).

(h) Figure 11.463(h) illustrates the towing officer endorsement structure, including crossover points. The section numbers on the diagram refer to the specific requirements applicable.

46 CFR 11.321 Requirements to qualify for an STCW endorsement as officer in charge of a navigational watch (OICNW) of vessels of less than 500 GT limited to near-coastal waters (operational level).

(a) To qualify for an STCW endorsement as OICNW, an applicant must—
(3) Provide evidence of having satisfactorily completed approved training in the following subject areas:
(iv) Bridge resource management;

FAQ 140-039 – §140.630 states that “a lookout in addition to the master or mate (pilot) should be added when necessary…” (1) Must this supplemental lookout be logged in the TVR in accordance with §140.400(c)? (2) Would deckhands posted on the head of a tow for the purposes of transiting a lock (or guiding a tow into a fleet) be considered supplemental lookouts?

(1) Yes, the lookout must be logged in the TVR, official logbook, or in accordance with the TSMS applicable to the vessel. (2) Yes, deckhands posted by the master or mate (pilot) on the head of a tow to aid in safe navigation are considered lookouts provided they have sufficient communications with the wheelhouse.

FAQ 140-050 – Vessels over 65’ are required to have a fog bell at least 11.8” in diameter. If the vessel’s PA is on a battery backup, will that suffice as a sound producer?

Yes, the PA system will suffice as a sound producer providing it has the same respective sound characteristics as a bell and manual sounding of the prescribed signals is always possible. In addition, the system must produce a sound pressure level of not less than 110 dB at 1 meter.

Part 141 – Lifesaving – All updates to this section were to correct spelling and spacing errors.

Part 142 – Fire Protection

FAQ 142-017 – Are existing Halon (or CO2 systems for that matter) acceptable on existing vessels “as is?” Is the Coast Guard going to require further assessment of agent volumes, piping, nozzles, placement of pressure switches, etc.? Subchapter M only discusses “fixed systems” but doesn’t direct operators to design or performance standards.

Existing vessels must comply with Subchapter M on July 20, 2018. 46 CFR 142.215(a) states that all fixed fire-extinguishing systems required by part 142 must be approved by the Commandant (CG-ENG). The definition of a “fixed fire-extinguishing system” can be found in 46 CFR 136.110, which also provides references for the design requirements of each system. A fire-extinguishing system must have been approved by the Commandant at the time of installation and meet the design and installation standards required by regulations at the time of installation or new regulations if they are retroactive. Fire-extinguishing systems onboard an existing vessel need to meet the requirements referenced in 46 CFR 136.110. Halon systems or other extinguishing systems that are no longer approved by the Commandant will have to demonstrate that the system was approved at the time of installation.

Part 144 – Construction & Arrangement

FAQ 144-017 – What are the vessel subdivision and watertight bulkhead requirements?

There are no subdivision requirements for a new vessel or an existing vessel associated with unanticipated internal flooding. However, for a new vessel to be certificated for service on a lakes, bays, and sounds, limited coastwise, coastwise, or oceans route, the applicable structural standard (i.e. ABS Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels Under 90M in Length) requires the fitting of a watertight collision bulkhead on all vessels not less than 50 ft in length (Pt. 3, Ch. 2, Sec. 7). Further, the engine room is to be enclosed by watertight bulkheads extending to the bulkhead deck. Chain lockers are to be watertight as well.

For a new vessel on a rivers or intracoastal waterway route, there are no subdivision requirements, but if there are watertight bulkhead fitted, those bulkheads designated as watertight must meet prescriptive requirements.

Any deviations from the selected structural standard used are subject to approval by the Marine Safety Center. See §144.205.

FAQ 144-018 – With regard to stability, is the GICW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway) considered “Protected” or “Partially Protected”?

Generally, the GICW waters are designated as protected waters. However, certain segments of the GICW are designated as partially protected waters by the cognizant OCMI because of the open water characteristics of portions of rivers, estuaries, harbors, lakes and similar areas. Check with the cognizant OCMI to identify partially protected waters in areas through which vessels plan to transit.

FAQ 144-021 – What are the different requirements for watertight and weathertight integrity by route?

The requirements contained in §144.320 are closely aligned with those stipulated for vessel operational safety contained in §140.610. Refer to the Notice of Final Rulemaking for more details. §140.610(c) requires the master to ensure that all hatches and openings of the hull and deck (i.e. closure devices, as referred to in §144.320(b)) are kept tightly closed except: (2) when operating on rivers with a tow, if the master determines the safety of the vessel is not compromised; or (3) when operating on lakes, bays, and sounds, without a tow during calm weather, and only if the master determines that the safety of the vessel is not compromised. It is with these provisions in mind that the last sentence of §144.320(b) refers to route: “These devices must be suitable for the intended route.”

While §140.610 does not apply to an existing towing vessel until July 20, 2018 or the date that vessel is issued a COI (§140.105), whichever is earlier, the requirements of §144.320 are intended to help mitigate the risk of uncontrolled water ingress and to facilitate run-off of water on deck.
If a vessel is assigned a load line, watertight and weathertight integrity requirements for the conditions of load line assignment would take precedence.

FAQ 144-022 – Is there a standard for gaging requirements?

For an existing vessel, minimum requirements for hull thickness measurements (a.k.a. “gagings”) should follow recommendations given in NVIC 7-68.

For a new vessel, 46 CFR 144.205(d) requires the structural standard selected to be applied throughout the vessel including maintenance, alteration, and repair. This requirement therefore extends to minimum requirements for thickness measurements (gagings) provided in the standard selected (e.g., for a new vessel that selected the ABS Under 90 meter Steel vessel rules, the gaging requirements in Part 7, Chapter 3, section 2/5.1.15(a) would apply). Deviations are subject to approval by the Marine Safety Center.

Please see “Structural Standards” under the “Construction and Arrangement” link at TugSafe Central on the TVNCOE website (www.dco.uscg.mil/tvncoe).

FAQ 144-027 – For a vessel whose keel was laid before July 20, 2017 – an existing vessel, Table 144.135(c) appears to imply that existing vessels that are still under construction on July 20, 2018, will have some systems that were not required to be verified prior to installation.

Table 144.135 applies to a new installation that is not a “replacement in kind.” It does not apply to existing vessels that are still under construction after July 20, 2018. However, the scenario outlined in the question is correct – an existing vessel under construction on July 20, 2018 is not required to undergo a verification prior to installation. In any case, prior to the issue of the Certificate of Inspection, all systems must meet Subchapter M requirements for an existing vessel. An existing vessel not completed by July 20, 2018 should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

FAQ 144-037 – What is the rule on rails or chains on the gunwales and how narrow is too narrow?

The requirements of §144.800(a) and (b) refer to the case in which there are space limitations (i.e., in the horizontal dimension) that make the installation of handrails impractical and is included to provide for the need for safe transit of personnel in such locations. This will be determined at the discretion of the OCMI.

FAQ 144-038 – Can I re-plate my hull with thicker steel?

Yes. The desire to re-plate with thicker steel can be motivated by steel plate availability as well as by a desire to improve resistance to contact deformation. In most cases, there is no problem associated with replacing existing plate with thicker steel plate, but, for an existing vessel, the requirement for satisfactory service insofar as structural adequacy is concerned §144.200(b) would be applicable. For a new vessel, the structural standard selected would be applicable (§144.205(d)).

Any changes to hull steel plate thickness require documentation of weight and moment changes as required by §144.315. Deviations are subject to approval by the Marine Safety Center.

FAQ 144-045 – 46 CFR §144.205 Structural standards for a new vessel, states new vessels must comply with the standards established by ABS as indicated in Table 144.205(a). Is there a standard for existing vessels to require qualified welders for repairs after 20 July 2017? 46 CFR §144.200, structural standards for an existing vessel, does not clearly specify.

No, but, for certain existing vessels, such as Load Line vessels, welder qualifications are subject to the requirements of the Load Line Assigning Authority. See FAQ 136-033, which addresses welder qualifications for both existing and new vessels.

By Professional Mariner Staff