All towing vessels except those in restricted services are required to comply with new requirements for fire protection equipment
and procedures under an interim rule issued by the USCG. The rule is the first step in a two-pronged approach to implementing the requirements of the 1996 USCG Authorization Act, which directed the USCG to promulgate regulations requiring fire suppression systems
or other measures to control fires on towing vessels.
The rule requires existing towing vessels, except those used solely for fleeting, pollution response or other restricted service, be equipped with the following, by October 8, 2001:
· A general alarm or alternative, such as a public address system, which is tested weekly;
· An engine room fire detection system with visible and audible alarms. The system must be certified by a registered Public Engineer or recognized classification society as meeting the requirements of the interim rule;
· A fixed or portable system allowing for two-way communication between the pilothouse and the engine room. Twin screw
towing vessels with pilothouse controls for both engines are not subject to this requirement; and,
· A remote fuel shutoff for the main engine and other fuel lines.
Effective January 19, 2000, the rule requires monthly firefighting drills and instruction for towing vessel crewmembers. New crewmembers who have not received the required instruction or participated in a drill, must be given a safety orientation before the vessel gets underway.
New towing vessels (contracted for after January 20, 2000) must comply with the same equipment requirements as existing towing vessels before they are placed into service. New towing vessels must also comply with additional requirements regarding fuel piping, vent piping and prohibitions on the use of portable fuel tanks and alternative fuels.
The interim rule does not address requirements for fixed fire suppression systems or alternatives such as semi-portable fire extinguishers and other manual firefighting equipment. These will be the subject of a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to be published in early 2000.
The USCG will accept comments on the interim rule until December 20.