CFR 46 Subchapter M: Towing Vessel Inspection Regulations

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In 2004 Congress instructed the Coast Guard to bring most of the nation’s commercial towing vessels, which were operating as “uninspected vessels,” under formal Coast Guard inspection.  In order to comply with this Congressional mandate, the Coast Guard had to prepare a detailed set of towing vessel inspection regulations. 

      The Coast Guard conducted a number of public meetings to hear from the towing industry and accepted suggestions from its Towing Safety Advisory Committee, vessel owners and operators, and concerned members of the public to arrive at a set of proposed regulations that it published in the Federal Register on August 11, 2011 (76 FR 49976-50050).

      The proposed rules were sent out to the public for review, consideration, and comment where they were further refined and evaluated behind closed doors until they were released as Final Rules on June 20, 2016 and became effective a month later on July 20, 2016.

      Marine Education Textbooks published a copy of the Final Rules as they appeared in the Federal Register on June 20, 2016.  This reprint includes the Preamble (pages 40004 through 40101 using page numbers from the Federal Register) that provides an introduction to the new regulations and includes a review of the many comments the agency received, considered, and replied to as required by law.  The remainder of the book starting on page 40101 and ending on page 40147 contains the final rules that will be enforced over the next 6 years.

      Bringing approximately 5,500 towing vessels under inspection is one of the largest vessel inspection projects ever undertaken by the Coast Guard – surpassing the inspection of over 6,500 small passenger vessels starting in 1958 and over 1,200 Offshore Supply Vessels starting in the 1980s.

      The new 46 CFR Subchapter M is divided into 9 “PARTS” as follows:

— Part 136 – Certification (starting on page 40101)

— Part 137 – Vessel Compliance (staring on page 40109).

— Part 138 – Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) starting on page 40113.

— Part 139 – Third Party Organizations (starting on page 40116).

— Part 140 – Operations (starting on page 40118).

— Part 141 – Lifesaving (starting on page 40125).

— Part 142 – Fire Protection (starting on page 40129).

— Part 143 – Machinery and Electrical Systems and Equipment (starting on page 40134).

— Part 144 – Construction and Arrangement (starting on page 40141).

      In addition, the book includes three corrections that appeared in the Federal Register (at 81 FR 47312 on July 21, 2016) that made corrections to the following 3 regulations: 46 CFR §143.300; §144.106 and §144.136.

      This publication of these rules and the latest Preamble will provide vessel owners, operators, crewmembers and port captains with essential information they need to prepare their vessels for inspection by the Coast Guard leading to the issuance of the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection.  From that point forward, it will be up to these individuals to keep their vessel in compliance with the rules.  There are a number of deadlines built into these rules, which make a thorough review of the rules (i.e., pages 40101 through 40147 important).

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