ABS Releases Subchapter M Guidance

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September 22, 2016

Photo credit: American Maritime Partnership

International classification society ABS has released new guidance for U.S. towing vessel owners to help them comply with the new requirements of Subchapter M.

ABS says the guidance, titled the ABS Guide for Building and Classing Subchapter M Towing Vessels, is the first to help American owners comply with new U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requirements governing towing vessels operating in U.S. inland waterways.

“As a trusted advisor to industry, ABS stays at the forefront of changing regulatory requirements so we can offer the best guidance to our clients and other industry stakeholders,” says ABS Americas Division President James Watson. “Our knowledge and experience put us in an excellent position to help owners balance their operational needs with the Subchapter M requirements.”

The Coast Guard published its final rule for 46 CFR Subchapter M this past June. The new regulations establish requirements for the design, construction, onboard equipment and operations specific to towing vessels. The regulations, which were developed over more than a decade with input from the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) and the towing vessel industry, have been incorporated into Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations as the new Subchapter M.

With certain exceptions, Subchapter M applies to U.S.-flag towing vessels 26 feet or more in length and those less than 26 feet moving barges carrying oil or hazardous material in bulk.

The new regulations became effective July 20, but some rules are being phased-in over time. Existing towing vessels also have an additional two years before having to comply with most of the requirements.

ABS says its guide addresses requirements for lifesaving appliances, fire protection, machinery, piping, electrical, structure and stability/load line. It also provides additional, supplemental and alternative requirements to the ABS Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels for Service on Rivers and Intracoastal Waterways (River Rules) based on a comparison to 46 CFR Subchapter M for towing vessels that fall under these definitions.

“ABS is committed to helping the domestic maritime industry comply with the 46 CFR Subchapter M requirements,” says ABS Inland Waterways Manager Joshua LaVire. “Our team provides companies with trusted technical advice that demonstrates our commitment and industry leadership.”

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