Security plans on towing vessels

What towing vessels are required to have security plans?

Most towing vessels I have been on have a security plan on board. During USCG inspections on inland towing vessels the security plan has been asked for although I don’t think it required.

My interpretation of the regs is that only towing vessels listed in the applicability portion of 33 CFR 104.105 (towing vessels towing barges subject to 46 CFR I, D or O) are required to have security plans. The security plan requirements are listed in 33 CFR part 104.400, as this is under 33 CFR part 104 would only the applicable vessels in 33 CFR 104.105 be required to have security plans? Or is there something I missed in the MTSA or elsewhere that lists security plan requirements for towing vessels.

Subchapter M, my guy.

§ 140.660 Vessel security.
Each towing vessel must be operated in compliance with:
(a) The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (46 U.S.C. Chapter 701); and
(b) 33 CFR parts 101 and 104, as applicable.


33 CFR part 104 as applicable… part 104 contains the vessel security plan requirements. Would only towing vessels listed under the applicability portion of 33 CFR 104.105 be required to have a security plan?

Each towing vessel MUST. There you go, there’s your verbiage.

If they’re applicable, so if they’re listed, then they must adhere to the additional requirements.

I feel like you’re seeking a loophole, and therefore asking again looking for validations of your hope rather than contextually and critically reading what I shared. However, Subchapter M has any and all information regarding towing vessels (literally it’s purpose) so read, read, and re-read to your heart’s content until you find what you’re looking for.

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Not looking for a loophole, it just seems that most towing vessels that have security plans aren’t required to have them.

Since you seem to not understand what applicable means, I’ll look up the definition for you. It means relevant or appropriate. Which means that not all towing vessels have to adhere to 33 CFR part 104, only the ones that meet the applicability portion of part 104.

33 CFR part 104.105 lists what towing vessels part 104 is applicable to. My original question was, is there any other requirements other than those listed in part 104 that would require a towing vessel to have security plans? Only towing vessels towing barges subject to 46 CFR chapter I, subchapters D or O would be required to adhere to part 104. Which means almost all ship assist boats and many other towing vessels wouldn’t be required to have security plans, although many of them do.

You should look up the meaning of AND while you’re at it. That quote has a part (a) AND a part (b) if applicable. You step right over the first part and jump to the second.

I’ll help you out once again.

46 U.S. Code § 70103 - Maritime transportation security plans

Read, read, and re-read.

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MTSA doesn’t list what boats are required to have security plans, only 33 CFR part 104 does to my understanding.

Is it your understanding that all towing vessels under sub M are required to have security plans?

We took the long way around, but we certainly got there.

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I guess I will go ahead and have to tell the USCG that they have been wrong all of this time about the applicability of MTSA on towing vessels.

I will just go ahead and copy and paste this here for you to read, although I am starting to doubt your ability to comprehend even the most basic words in the English language at this point. This is from USCG tug safe website, “MTSA applicability for towing vessels is based on the MTSA status of barges being towed. The ISPS Code applies to vessels on international voyages. Because MTSA includes ISPS requirements, compliance with MTSA satisfies ISPS requirements for U.S. vessels on an international voyage. MTSA is applicable to all towing vessels greater than 26 feet in length engaged in towing a barge or barges subject to 46 CFR subchapters D or O. MTSA is also applicable to towing vessels that engage in towing a barge or barges that carry certain dangerous cargo in bulk that are subject to 46 CFR subchapter I. The above MTSA applicability does not apply to a towing vessel that temporarily assists another vessel engaged in towing a barge or barges, shifts a barge or barges at a facility or within a fleeting facility, assists sections of a tow through a lock, or provides emergency assistance. Towing vessels subject to MTSA must be operated in accordance with their approved Vessel Security Plan (VSP) or Alternate Security Program (ASP) at all time. The VSP or ASP may include variable security measures to cover towing operations that don’t involve barges subject to MTSA. Security plan approval is valid for five years from the date of approval. VSPs and ASPs must have an initial verification upon plan approval, and verification once in five years by the Coast Guard.”


Sounds like you didn’t come here looking for an answer, you already had one. But I can guarantee that if you are to be operating a subchapter M compliant towing vessel, the USCG will want one. Either write your own or become part of something like AWO like so:

Alternative Security Program | The American Waterways Operators.

There you go. Argue with ABS (or whichever) and the Coast Guard if you want, but you’ll soon find yourself not operating.


I did come here looking for an answer, @Rain_Wizard responded by telling me to “contextually and critically read what he shared,” which I clearly have read what he shared.

If the Coast Guard was to write a towing vessel up for not having a security plan they would have to cite a reg. I just don’t see how they could cite anything in the MTSA or 33 CFR 104 for the reasons above unless the towing vessel meets the applicability portion of these regulations.

I’m going to do the work for you because you did not read the CFRs. It is clearly there. Read both parts. I’ll help you.

101.110 Applicability.
Unless otherwise specified, this subchapter applies to vessels, structures, and facilities of any kind, located under, in, on, or adjacent to waters subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.

104.105 Applicability.
(b) An owner or operator of any vessel not covered in paragraph (a) of this section is subject to parts 101 through 103 of this subchapter.

104.120 Compliance documentation.

(a) Each vessel owner or operator subject to this part must ensure that copies of the following documents are carried on board the vessel and are made available to the Coast Guard upon request:

(1) The approved Vessel Security Plan (VSP) and any approved revisions or amendments thereto, and a letter of approval from the Commanding Officer, Marine Safety Center (MSC);

(2) The VSP submitted for approval and a current acknowledgement letter from the Commanding Officer, MSC, stating that the Coast Guard is currently reviewing the VSP submitted for approval, and that the vessel may continue to operate so long as the vessel remains in compliance with the submitted plan;

(3) For vessels operating under a Coast Guard-approved Alternative Security Program as provided in § 104.140, a copy of the Alternative Security Program the vessel is using, including a vessel specific security assessment report generated under the Alternative Security Program, as specified in § 101.120(b)(3) of this subchapter, and a letter signed by the vessel owner or operator, stating which Alternative Security Program the vessel is using and certifying that the vessel is in full compliance with that program;

and here:

101.415 Penalties.

(a) Civil and criminal penalty. Violation of any order or other requirement imposed under section 101.405 of this part is punishable by the civil and criminal penalties prescribed in 46 U.S.C. 70036 or 46 U.S.C. 70052, as appropriate.

(b) Civil penalty. As provided in 46 U.S.C. 70119, any person who does not comply with any other applicable requirement under this subchapter, including a Maritime Security Directive, shall be liable to the U.S. for a civil penalty of not more than $ 25,000 for each violation. Enforcement and administration of this provision will be in accordance with 33 CFR 1.07.

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No it isn’t.

I don’t think you read what you posted very closely. That doesn’t cover tugs towing grain barges, ship assist tugs, etc.


Probably way fewer than do but I’m sure it makes life much easier for companies to just go ahead and have one. It makes the client happy and it makes the port happy.

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I don’t disagree that all towing vessels under Sub M are subject to 33 CFR parts 101, but if you look at 33 CFR 104.105 in its entirety then you will see not all of them are subject to part 104, which is where the CFR came from that you copy and pasted that contain the VSP regs.

Right. It says that if it’s not part 104, then you are subject to part 101. Basically you should just have one. If you have an SMS, you should have a security plan as well. It’s not much more work to write one, or become an AWO member and use their plan.

There’s no point in semantics about grain barges or assist work. If someone is investing in operating a vessel it is not too much to ask to implement one and doesn’t actually consist of very much. Check a visitor’s Twic and log them, maintain Marsec placards and do security rounds. When you are audited you point to the plan and say it’s followed as written.

I actually have to agree with @Tugboat1 on this one. The CFR is pretty clear.

Part 101 and 104 may both apply, but they are different. Only Part 104 covers Vessel Security Plans, in 104 Subpart D, and it also lists the vessels to which Subpart D applies in Subpart A, which are only towing vessels towing barges which are listed in that section.

Part 101 does not cover Vessel Security Plans. In fact at one point it specifically references “vessels required to have security plans under Part 104, 105, or 106.”

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Yes there is, that’s literally the whole point of the question. What tugs are REQUIRED to have a security plan and why do tugs that aren’t required to have one frequently have one anyway.