Subchapter M implementation

I’ve been on several boats West Coast and Alaska boats that have passed subchapter M inspections, but I have not yet seen a COI on any of them. Has anyone actually seen a USCG issued Subchapter M COI?

So far, the subchapter M inspection appears to be just as useless as the old uninspectex tugboat “courtesy inspections “.

There are suprisingly few issued at this point. I’ve been to events where the USCG keeps hammering away that operators aren’t applying fast enough. They are tracking how many have to be issued by 22 July 2019 vs. how many have been applied for and the applications are way behind. Don’t expect any grace period or wiggle room if you don’t meet the application timelines.

I don’t think getting the COI is the hard part … keeping it is.

It won’t be the prescriptive rules of Subchapter M that trip people up, but all the other CFRs outside of SubM that the USCG is now applying because you have a COI but the companies don’t even know to look at.

The only changes that I see are: more one size fits all (which actually fit nothing) computerized pencil whipped paperwork; more halfass drills; more cumbersome parts and service requests; and best of all, linethrowing rockets.

Some recently inspected vessels are in poor structural condition with jury-rigged systems. The boats are still undermanned and rest hour requirements are constantly violated, but there is plenty of pencil whipped paperwork denying it.

1 Like

I think overall Sub M implementation will be a good thing but you are right, it has it’s faults. I think it might take a few accidents to make manning requirements and other parts more clear and or useful…I hate to admit it but the towing industry is very reactive, not proactive. At least now there is a CFR where these updates can be added and hopefully over time, make the industry safer as originally intended. You are definitely right on one count that service requests, drydocking etc and updating vessels will become more expensive putting a squeeze on the smaller companies. Many of the TPOs Third Party Operators doing the inspections are former USCG or people without seatime.

136.200 Certificate required.

(a) A towing vessel may not be operated without having onboard a valid COI issued by the Coast Guard as required by §136.202.

(b) Each towing vessel certificated under the provisions of this subchapter must be in full compliance with the terms of the COI.

Also: 136.220 Posting.

(a) The original COI must be framed under glass or other transparent material and posted in a conspicuous place onboard the towing vessel.

(b) If posting is impracticable, the COI must be kept on board in a weathertight container and must be readily available.

The phase in periods have yet to take place so that could be a reason you haven’t seen any.
136.202 COI Phase in period
(1) By July 22, 2019, at least 25 percent of the towing vessels must have valid COIs on board;

(2) By July 20, 2020, at least 50 percent of the towing vessels must have valid COIs on board;

(3) By July 19, 2021, at least 75 percent of the towing vessels must have valid COIs on board; and

(4) By July 19, 2022, 100 percent of the towing vessels must have valid COIs on board


I’ve been on boats that have reportedly passed the Subchapter M inspection, but I could not find a COI onboard.

I wonder how long it takes the USCG to actually print and deliver the COI?

The USCG is watching the rate of issuance very closely. I was at an industry day a few months ago and the CG hammered this message several times.

If I recall correctly, they are assuming about 5000 COIs to be issued in total which is 1250 by 22 July 2019 (not exactly correct but close enough for government work) and they are nowhere near that.

The message to industry is to start applying as soon as you can because of the resources needed for other segments of the industry going in to summer may (likely) slow down the COI application processing time.

If you are TSMS option and not ISM or RCP you have to have a TSMS Certificate for six months before you can be issued a COI. If you don’t already have a TSMS Certificate your window to be TSMS option eligible is rapidly closing and you will be forced to be USCG Option in order to get a COI by the deadline.

As i read it, if you don’t get a COI by 22 July 2019 you will have to tie up your entire fleet or pay the penalties. I saw somewhere that its $2,000 per day when operating a vessel without a COI.

I wasn’t aware that the choice of either third party organization inspection or USCG inspection had anything to do with which safety management system was chosen.

Most companies transporting oil have been using the The AWO , RCP for years. I can see why it would be easiest to stick with that.

For companies with ocean boats that might make foreign voyages, ISM makes more sense.

In addition to AWO, RCP, I’ve seen the ABS (cannot think of the name at the moment), Helm Connect, and Mobile Ops TSMSs. I don’t like any of them, but Mobile Ops seems to be the most tolerable, followed by ABS, Helm Connect, and RCP.

When times up, the USCG will pass out extensions like candy, claiming they don’t have the resources to process the inspections on time.

If I owned mostly Classed vessels (ABS), I’d probably chose the ABS as my TPO, and probably use the ABS TSMS.

If I owned mostly unclassed vessels, I would choose the USCG option, and probably choose Mobile Ops as the TSMS.

USCG option does not require a Safety Management System. The SMS is only required as part of the TPO option. If the ISM code is your TSMS than you can only use ABS and the other Class Societies/Recognized Organizations as your TPO. They are the only ones who can perform audits and issue documents based on the ISM Code.

NS5 is the ABS software package. NS5, HelmConnect and Moble Ops are not TSMSs, they are vessel management software packages. If you are not RCP or ISM your TSMS is your Safety Management System either written in house or bought from a consultant.

The USCG has explicitly stated they will not hand out extensions if you have not met the application/scheduling deadlines.

ABS does not have a TSMS, ABS (like all other TPOs) validates TSMSs.

If you choose the USCG option there is no TSMS to choose. Your method for validating compliance is only through a complete annual inspection by USCG personnel the same as a deep sea US flag vessel would be.

Is that one quarter of all of them, or one quarter of each owner’s fleet? If the former, seems to me they’ll have to grant waivers. If the latter, who picks which quarter of a noncomplying fleet can’t sail?

25% of each owners fleet. With the number of one boat operators that have an additional year to obtain a COI that most likely will not add up to 25% of all vessels.

46 CFR 136.202
(a) All owners or managing operators of more than one existing towing vessel required to have a COI by this subchapter must ensure that each existing towing vessel under their ownership or control is issued a valid COI according to the following schedule:
(1) By July 22, 2019, at least 25 percent of the towing vessels must have valid COIs on board;
etc, etc, etc …

Its not about which boat, but how many. If you have a fleet of 8 boats and 1 COI, you are 1 COI short. A COI is required whether you leave the dock or not. For SubM not to apply and therefore not to need a COI you have to lay the boat up, not just tie it up.

1 Like

Ah. Another reason why the USCG inspection is the a good option for small companies.

So in that case no vessel could sail until one of them was laid up? Or the outfit just accumulates fines at 2k/day until one is laid up?

Pretty damn sure that’s your fleet/ company. If XYZ Towing has 20 towing vessels, 5 of there vessels have to have COIs by July 22, 2019.

XyZ Corp will soon own 20 other companies with one boat each, if they don’t already.


“All owners or managing operators …”

A lot already have each boat as a different company for accounting purposes.

Yeah. It very common for each boat to be a different company with some different investors and financing. Limitation of liability is also a big consideration.

Maybe the USCG has a handle on that with the All operators provision.

Continued from CFR 136.202 If you have only one towing vessel, you have until July 20, 2020. Also, all new towing vessels entering service need a valid COI regardless.

(b) All owners or managing operators of only one existing towing vessel required to have a COI by this subchapter must ensure the vessel has an onboard, valid COI by July 20, 2020.

© A new towing vessel must obtain a COI before it enters into service.

OP " Has anyone actually seen a USCG issued Subchapter M COI?"
We’ve had one for about two months. It was issued maybe 6 months after all inspections were done under TSMS/ISM option.

Six months from completed inspection to COI in hand. That explains why I have never seen one.