“A bad system will defeat a good person every time”
– W. Edwards Deming

Historically, 99% of towing vessels were never required to have a Certificate of Inspection (COI) commensurate with that of cargo ships, tankers and passenger vessels (including small passenger vessels).  All towing vessels are now required to be “in compliance with” the new inspection requirements when Sub Chapter M became effective July 20, 2018 (46 CFR 136.172).

In this age of Safety Management Systems, the working definition of “being in compliance” might best be thought of as having “documented evidence” of the requirements being in place (physically on the vessel) and having been done hands-on (routine and emergency drills). Non-conformities must be documented.  Audits and other quality checks must have evidence.  It stands to reason that the “evidence” has to be “Ready for Inspection” at the request of the Coast Guard.  The records and other documents that vessels need to have readily available are the heart of the matter in any Safety Management Program.  This has been the case with vessels that have been required to have a Document of Compliance issued by a classification society in accordance with International Safety Management.  The idea of an SMS is nothing new.  QMII has 33 years of experience helping regulated industries (afloat and ashore) pass their safety inspections.

There exist two options for all concerned stakeholders.

Option A

The “Coast Guard Option” (46 CFR 136.130(a)(1)) carries-over from a traditional inspection regime of merchant ships.  This is perhaps best for small towing companies who own just two or three vessels.  It’s easy for someone in a small office to have correspondence with a point of contact in the CG’s local Marine Inspection Office.  This option requires annual visitation from the CG (46 CFR 137.200) for the inspections.

Option B

For large towing companies that have at least two or three boats in each port, the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) Option (136.130(a)(2)) is the more logical choice, for convenience and for the cost.  This sounds more complicated than it is.  It’s an SMS specific to vessels in the Towing Industry.  One of the systematic requirements is the validity of a “TSMS Certificate,” issued by a Third-Party Organization (TPO), which is a prerequisite for being issued the COI at the completion of all inspection requirements.  The COI is valid for five years, the same as it is for any cargo ship, but for a vessel utilizing the TSMS option, the COI is predicated on having a valid TSMS Certificate: 136.215(b).

The TSMS option (137.130) requires either Internal (first-party) surveys to be overseen by a TPO, or External (TPO) surveys, where the TPO conducts independent verifications to assess compliance at the appropriate times in the cycle.  Further documentation of compliance under the TSMS option includes auditing.  Internal audits are conducted annually by people certificated with a CG-recognized ISO 9001 course (138.310).  External audits include both management and vessel audits.  The vessel (physically) and its TSMS (systematically) are required to be in compliance with the regulations.

Which is best for me?

For smaller companies, the thought of being annually inspected by the USCG may drive the decision in favor of the more expensive TSMS option. Should the system be well implemented however, the USCG option in the longer run will be the more cost effective option and the gains from safer operations will be evident.

What We Can Do for You

Our management system consulting services go beyond so that your your vessel, and eventually your fleet, will have systems in place for:

  • Corrective Maintenance
  • New Crew member Safety & Familiarization Training
  • Vessel Security
  • Preventive Maintenance items, done on schedule
  • Operational Check-Lists, done routinely
  • CG-2692 (vessel copy) with accompanying witness statements, when necessary
  • Special Event Reports and Check-Lists (Bomb Threat, Security Breach, etc.)
  • Engaging employees so they use systems to meet objectives and other requirements

QMII has been a pioneer in integrating quality systems into a broader business context. We long ago left the limited boundaries of being mere “compliance” consultants, and instead have developed approaches that will help you enable your towing safety management system to:

  • Fulfill objectives and other requirements;
  • Meet external quality mandates
  • Assure quality, health, safety, security, operational integrity and sustainability
  • Ensure environment and corporate social responsibility
  • Address risk, prevent loss and add value.

Based on our experience working with the U.S. Coast Guard, QMII is committed to interpreting the (Inspection) Sub Chapters of Title 46 (of the Code of Federal Regulations) so that we can help the industry segment that is regulated by the sub chapter.   In this sense of the word, “regulated” can be thought of as inspected.  The phrase, “Inspection for Certification” has prevailed.

QMII brings to you integrity and social responsibility in ensuring your system works. Our management system goes beyond typical “systems”, to ensure that your organization gets a complete functioning system, that goes beyond mere paper “compliance”.