Marine Link
Monday, March 19, 2018

OMB - Subchapter M Cleared for Publication

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 4, 2016

File Image: an aerial view of a typical fleeting operation on America's inland rivers (WCI)

File Image: an aerial view of a typical fleeting operation on America's inland rivers (WCI)

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of the draft final rule entitled Inspection of Towing Vessels, also known as "Subchapter M." The document has been returned to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Coast Guard for final preparation prior to promulgation in the Federal Register.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, this rulemaking would implement a program of inspection for certification of towing vessels, which were previously uninspected. It would prescribe standards for safety management systems and third-party auditors and surveyors, along with standards for construction, operation, vessel systems, safety equipment, and recordkeeping. In a nutshell, it also represents some of the most sweeping changes in this sector in decades, as well as being one of most siginificant rulemaking efforts in recent memory.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 requires that a proposed rule be issued within 90 days after enactment and that a final rule be issued within 1 year of enactment.

Statement of Need:
This rulemaking would implement section 415 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004. The intent of the proposed rule is to promote safer work practices and reduce casualties on towing vessels by ensuring that towing vessels adhere to prescribed safety standards. This proposed rule was developed in cooperation with the Towing Vessel Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC). It would establish a new subchapter dedicated to towing vessels, covering vessel equipment, systems, operational standards, and inspection requirements.

The federal government has estimated the anticipated costs and benefits of the rulemaking. As a result of this rulemaking, owners and operators of towing vessels would incur additional annualized costs, discounted at 7 percent, in the range of $14.3 million to $17.1 million. According to the Coast Guard, the cost of this rulemaking would involve provisions for safety management systems, standards for construction, operation, vessel systems, safety equipment, and recordkeeping. Our cost assessment includes existing and new vessels. The Coast Guard developed the requirements in the proposed rule by researching both the human factors and equipment failures that caused towing vessel accidents. We believe that the proposed rule would address a wide range of causes of towing vessel accidents and supports the main goal of improving safety in the towing industry. The primary benefit of the proposed rule is an increase in vessel safety and a resulting decrease in the risk of towing vessel accidents and their consequences. Beyond this, the government estimates an annualized benefit of $28.5 million from this rule.


The exact date of the final rule is not yet known, but yesterday's OMB announcement brings the subchapter M drama closer to its final resolution. The American Waterways Operators (AWO) have long pushed for the rule's enactment on behalf of its considerable membership.

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