US Coast Guard announces new towing vessel regulations

The US Coast Guard has announced new requirements for the design, construction, onboard equipment and operation of towing vessels.

The regulations become effective July 20, 2016, however certain regulations will be phased-in over time and existing towing vessels will have an additional two years before having to comply with most of the requirements.

The requirements will apply to US-flagged towing vessels longer than 7.9 metres in length and to shorter vessels that move barges carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk.

The rule lays out new compliance options as well as new equipment, construction and operational requirements for towing vessels.

Vessel operators will have the choice of two inspection options – the traditional coast guard inspection option or a new towing safety management system (TSMS) option.

The TSMS option will use third-party Coast Guard-approved organisations to conduct routine audits and surveys of towing vessels.