New Solutions Soothe Sub M Uncertainties

By Joseph Keefe
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Germanischer Lloyd, Baker Lyman Sub-Chapter M Alliance brings affordable, turnkey TSMS solutions – and compliance – to towboat operators.

 

When a family-owned, Gulf Coast based marine firm known primarily as a Chart Agent branches out into the world of maritime software, that’s big news. When a global, U.S. Coast Guard recognized vessel classification society acquires a world class survey and engineering firm to form a fully integrated technical consulting company, that’s arguably even bigger news. And, when those two entities – Baker Lyman (BL) and Germanischer Lloyd (GL) – this summer announced a strategic partnership intended to provide a turnkey, complete Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) design, auditing and record-keeping service to domestic towing firms, that news caught the attention of everyone. It shouldn’t, however, catch anyone by surprise.
 

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, as many as 5,000 vessels will be affected by coming subchapter M rules. Separately, AWO statistics indicate that 67% of the domestic fleet were members in 2002; leaving almost 1,800 domestic towing vessels not under the AWO Responsible Carrier Program. These form the greater majority of affected operators when the Coast Guard’s new subchapter M rules become law. All will need help with initial implementation and then again, to remain in compliance going forward.
 

With industry worried about a looming dearth of TSMS service capacities for the impending Sub-Chapter M implementation, the new pact between these long time maritime providers promises, in Baker Lyman’s words, “a TSMS ‘one stop shop’ for Sub-M impacted operators. GL & BL will cross market each other’s product & service lines; creating affordable, scalable, and flexible TSMS solutions for any sized fleet.” In the meantime, inland operators not necessarily accustomed to the close regulatory scrutiny that the Sub-M rules will bring find themselves scrambling to find a viable solution. With the advent of the BL/GL working agreement, they may have finally found that solution, and more.

Meet the “Sub-M Solutions” Team
Baker Lyman & Co. has been around since 1919; a lot longer than most marine businesses. Backed by credibility and a long history of selling a wide range of items to commercial mariners – including ECDIS software, traditional charts and other navigation software products – Baker Lyman developed the new CORSAIR software because the market demanded it.
 

CORSAIR is a Tug/Workboat Fleet Management System which includes the Towing Vessel Record (TVR) to assist in meeting audit requirements mandated by the NPRM. Released in 2011, Baker Lyman’s CORSAIR – billed as an affordable and scalable solution – has been sold to a number of companies that include small to mid-size fleet operations. In part, the result of the collaboration with former USCG officials, Chief Engineers, and Operations Managers, BL’s CORSAIR seamlessly facilitates the towing audit process and assessment and is specifically designed in a scalable format for commercial compliance, planned maintenance, document control and dispatch. But, software is only one piece of the Sub M puzzle.
 

Germanischer Lloyd and its sister company, Noble Denton (acquired by GL in 2009) form the basis of a global network that provides certification/inspection processes within the tug and barge, workboat, and offshore energy markets. GL, bolstered by its worldwide lead containership classification, is recognized as a top tier classification society. It is also the largest inspector of inland towing vessels in Europe.
 

Serving clients from the oil and gas sectors, shipyards, ship owners, designers and financial institutions across the wide spectrum of marine and energy industries, GL’s workforce now amounts to more than 6,400 employees in 80 countries. Together with Noble Denton’s technical and survey expertise which extends into many specialties, the two present one of the more diverse maritime services groups on the planet. The new partnership with BL widens that scope of service even further.

Leveraging Synergy: Everyone Wins
The strategic alliance commenced in August with a network of sales, administrative and field personnel deployed in key TSMS regions. It works like this: Baker Lyman will provide the TSMS Company/Vessel Assessment, TSMS Plan Creation, CORSAIR Towing Vessel Record, and annual TSMS Internal Audits. Germanischer Lloyd (USA)/Noble Denton will provide TSMS Plan Certification, TSMS Audit & Survey Services, TSMS Vessel Reclassification, and TSMS Training through GL Academy.
 

The BL/GL relationship is contractual, although customers – according to their needs – will contract separately with each. That said, the two firms working together, are stronger. In this relationship, everyone wins. GL wanted to strengthen its domestic inland contacts and get better access to the U.S. brown water markets. BL had those contacts. Likewise, BL, well known in domestic maritime circles, yearned for the reach afforded by a major, global classification society. 200+ years of combined cumulative maritime experience is further bolstered by a cadre of more than 100 U.S.-based GL surveyors, who already possess Coast Guard recognition for certain alternative compliance program (ACP) duties elsewhere.
 

From the customer’s perspective, it arguably gets even better. Leveraging the combined expertise of the two firms, a full subchapter M solution is delivered. Inspections in this case would be done under the same sorts of agreements with USCG that COI’s and TVE’s, for example, would be conducted. According to GL’s North American Vice President Ryan Bishop, GL’s services are based on a tariff system. He adds, “Through this partnership, we are able to provide integrated service to industry at a reasonable price. The new service will provide an economy of scale for inland rivers operators, a savings that GL is happy to pass along as we help customers with planning and logistics.” He went to describe a system where one surveyor could tackle a fleet over the course of many days, saving, time, money and transit expenses over individual assignments, done one-by-one.

Looking Ahead
GL’s Bishop told MarineNews in August, “Customers can get ahead of the curve now and show that they are prudent operators.” He added, “GL wants inland operators to know that there are other options.” Putting real meat to those comments, Baker Lyman then announced in August the appointment of Tug & Barge Solutions, LLC (TBS) as the lead implementation manager for Baker Lyman’s signature “RCP-TSMS Model Transition Plan”. Simply put, the “RCP-TSMS Model Transition Plan” allows current AWO RCP companies to enroll into a statutorily certified TSMS process prior to the Sub-Chapter M Final Rule, according to Corinne Titus, Baker Lyman’s CEO.
 

The new initiative, coupled with Baker Lyman’s TSMS strategic alliance with Germanischer Lloyd and the CORSAIR Towing Vessel Record software, position BL as an attractive TSMS option for towboat operators. For its part, TBS helped to define not only the cost savings this package offers tugboat operators, but also put demonstrable function to a process that, today, many see as abstract. In other words, operators can now move forward with the transition to subchapter M compliance.
 

Rocky Marchiano, Director of Baker Lyman’s Maritime Compliance Division, suggested that Baker Lyman will likely be the only option for AWO RCP enrollees for some time. To be fair, that remains to be seen. Coast Guard officials in August told MarineNews that, pre-subchapter M, not too many of the major classification societies showed real interest in the inland sector. Now, says the Coast Guard, that’s changed. Hence, the BL/GL partnership might be first, but it is likely that many others will follow. After all, 5,000+ potential inspections beckon.
 

Still, Marciano is optimistic about his chances to garner a larger share of this market. He insists, “Since TSMS 3rd Party Recognized Organization applicants face a tremendous economic and legal challenge in order to gain USCG approval it’s sensible to conclude that there will be few, if any, USCG approved TSMS 3rd Party RO’s outside of Germanischer Lloyd and ABS.” Marchiano adds, “Due to this probability, the Baker Lyman-Germanischer Lloyd TSMS Strategic Alliance will be left as the most affordable TSMS track industry-wide.”
 

First out of the gate, and packaged in a turnkey solution that facilitates a logical TSMS transition plan, the BL/GL partnership is arguably good news at a time of real uncertainty for towboat operators. This and the high profile “RCP-TSMS Model Transition Plan” will likely spur more organizations – and more choices – into the mix. In the meantime, Coast Guard officials refuse to speculate on when the subchapter M rule might be finalized. Operators know only that it is coming. Fortunately, the solution may already be here.


(As published in the September 2012 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)

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