Houston tugboat injury lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP keep up with changes in maritime law that affect our clients.

Subchapter M has significantly modified the safety rules that apply to the tugboat and maritime towing industry.  Our offshore injury attorneys are evaluating all parts of Subchapter M.

Part 137 of Subchapter M, copied below, sets out compliance standards for towing vessels.

If you or a loved one has been injured while working offshore, in a port or river, or on the high seas, please contact us now at 1-800-489-2216 for a free case evaluation.

PART 137—VESSEL COMPLIANCE

Subpart A—General

Sec.

137.100 Purpose.

137.105 Definitions.

137.110 [Reserved].

137.115 Issuance of Certificate of Inspection (COI).

137.120 Responsibility for compliance.

137.125 Towing Safety Management System (TSMS).

137.130 Program for vessel compliance for the TSMS option.

137.135 Reports and documentation required for the TSMS option.

 

Subpart B—Surveys for Certification for the TSMS Option

137.200 Frequency of survey.

137.205 Periodic survey.

137.210 Audited program.

137.215 General conduct of survey.

137.220 Scope.

 

Subpart C—Drydock and Internal Structural Surveys

137.300 Documenting Compliance for the TSMS option.

137.305 Intervals for drydock and internal structural examination.

137.310 Periodic survey for the TSMS option.

137.315 Audited program for the TSMS option.

137.320 Vessels holding a valid load line certificate.

137.325 General conduct of survey for the TSMS option.

137.330 Scope of the Drydock Examination.

137.335 Underwater survey in lieu of drydocking.

 

Authority: 46 U.S.C. 3103, 3301, 3306, 3308, 3316, 8104, 8904; 33 CFR 1.05; DHS Delegation 0170.1.

 

Subpart A—General

  • 137.100 Purpose.

This part describes the procedures owners or managing operators of towing vessels must use to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this subchapter.

  • 137.105 Definitions.

The definitions provided in § 136.110 of this subchapter apply to this part.

  • 137.110 [Reserved]
  • 137.115 Issuance of Certificate of Inspection (COI).

The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel must demonstrate that the vessel complies with this part to be eligible for Certificate of Inspection (COI) in accordance with § 136.210 of this subchapter.

  • 137.120 Responsibility for compliance.

(a) The owner and managing operator must ensure that the towing vessel is in compliance with this subchapter and other applicable laws and regulations at all times.

(b) Non-conformities and deficiencies must be corrected in a timely manner in order to prevent harm to life, property, and the marine environment.

  • 137.125 Towing Safety Management System (TSMS).

If a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) is applicable to the towing vessel, the TSMS must:

(a) Include policies and procedures to ensure compliance with this part; and

(b) Provide objective evidence that documents compliance with the TSMS.

  • 137.130 Program for vessel compliance for the TSMS option.

The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel choosing to utilize a TSMS must implement a program for vessel compliance. Each program must include:

(a) Owner or managing operator policy regarding the survey of towing vessels;

(b) Procedures for conducting towing vessel surveys, as described in this part;

(c) Procedures for reporting and correcting non-conformities and deficiencies;

(d) Identification of individual(s), and their qualifications, responsible for the management of the program; and

(e) Documentation of compliance activities.

  • 137.135 Reports and documentation required for the TSMS option.

(a) Reports detailing surveys of a towing vessel conducted by an approved third party must include:

(1) Vessel name;

(2) Other vessel identifier such as official number or state number;

(3) Name and business address of owner or managing operator;

(4) Date(s) of the survey;

(5) Date the Report of Survey was issued if different than the date the survey was concluded;

(6) Name of the surveyor;

(7) Name and business address of the approved third party the surveyor represents;

(8) Signature of the surveyor;

(9) A list or description of the items examined or witnessed;

(10) A descriptive listing of all nonconformities identified during the survey including those which were corrected during the course of the survey;

(11) A descriptive listing of: the end of the survey;

(ii) The required corrective action(s);

(iii) The latest date of required corrective action, not to exceed thirty days from date of discovery; and

(iv) Means by which the approved third party will verify that satisfactory corrective action has occurred.

(12) Identification of items that need to be repaired or replaced before the vessel continues in service; and

(13) A statement that the vessel complies with the applicable requirements of this subchapter and is fit for service and route, subject to correction of non-conformities.

(b) For a vessel subject to an audited program, the owner or managing operator must provide objective evidence of compliance with this part in accordance with the Towing Safety Management System applicable to the vessel.

Subpart B—Surveys for Certification for the TSMS Option

  • 137.200 Frequency of survey.

The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel must document compliance with this subpart as follows:

(a) Prior to obtaining the vessel’s initial Certificate of Inspection (COI), the owner or managing operator must provide to the Coast Guard a report of a survey as described in § 137.215 that demonstrates that the vessel complies with the survey requirements of this part.

(b) For re-issuance of the vessel’s COI:

(1) Provide objective evidence of a periodic survey as described in § 137.205 of this part; or

(2) Provide objective evidence of an audited program as described in § 137.210 of this part.

  • 137.205 Periodic survey.

(a) The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel who demonstrates compliance through a periodic survey must:

(1) Have the vessel surveyed annually by an approved third-party surveyor;

(2) Ensure the survey is conducted in accordance with 137.215;

(3) Ensure the survey is conducted within 3 months of the anniversary of the issuance of the Certificate of Inspection;

(4) Ensure the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) applicable to the vessel includes policies and procedures for complying with this section; and

(5) Make the applicable sections of the TSMS available to the surveyor.

(b) The approved third party must issue a report which meets the requirements of § 137.135 of this part.

  • 137.210 Audited program.

(a) The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel may demonstrate vessel compliance through an audited program. The Towing Safety Management System applicable to the vessel must include:

(1) Procedures for surveying and testing contained in § 137.215 of this part;

(2) Equipment, systems, and onboard procedures to be surveyed;

(3) Identification of items that need repair or replacement before the vessel continues in service;

(4) Procedures for documenting and reporting non-conformities and deficiencies;

(5) Procedures for reporting and correcting major non-conformities;

(6) The responsible person(s) in management who has the authority, to:

(i) Stop all vessel operations pending correction of non-conformities and deficiencies;

(ii) Oversee vessel compliance activities; and

(iii) Track and verify that nonconformities and deficiencies were corrected.

(7) Procedures for recordkeeping.

(b) The owner or managing operator is not required to survey the items as described in § 137.220 of this part as one event, but may survey items on a schedule over time, provided that the interval between successive surveys of any item does not exceed 1 year, unless otherwise prescribed.

(c) Prior to placement into an audited program, a towing vessel must successfully complete an initial audit by an approved third party. Then, the vessel must be audited in accordance with the provisions of part 138 of this subchapter (d) If the cognizant Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) has reason to believe that an audited program is deficient, that OCMI may:

(1) Require an audit or survey of the vessel in the presence of a representative of the cognizant OCMI;

(2) Increase the frequency of the audits; or

(3) Require that the vessel comply with the periodic survey requirements of § 137.205 of this part.

(4) Require any specific action within his power and authority deemed appropriate.

(5) For continued deficient audits, remove the vessel and or owner or managing operator from the TSMS system.

  • 137.215 General conduct of survey.

(a) When conducting a survey of a towing vessel as required by this subpart, the surveyor must determine that the item or system functions as designed, is free of defects or modifications that reduce its effectiveness, is suitable for the service intended, and functions safely in a manner consistent for vessel type, service and route.

(b) The survey must address the items in § 137.220 of this part as applicable, and include:

(1) A review of certificates and documentation held on the vessel;

(2) Visual examination and tests of the vessel and its equipment and systems in order to confirm that their condition is properly maintained and that proper quantities are onboard;

(3) Observation of drills or training to determine that the program of drills and training is carried out properly; and

(4) Visual examination to confirm that unapproved modifications were not made to the vessel or its equipment.

(c) The thoroughness and stringency of the survey will depend upon the condition of the vessel and its equipment.

(d) The owner or managing operator must notify the cognizant Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) when the condition of the vessel, its equipment, systems, or operations, create an unsafe condition.

(e) The cognizant OCMI may require that the owner or managing operator provide for the attendance of an approved third-party surveyor or auditor to assist with verifying compliance with this part.

  • 137.220 Scope.

The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel must examine or have examined the following systems, equipment, and procedures to ensure that the vessel and its equipment are suitable for the service for which the vessel is certificated:

(a) Towing Safety Management System (TSMS).

(1) Verify that the vessel is enrolled in a TSMS that complies with part 138 of this subchapter;

(2) Verify that the policies and procedures applicable to the vessel are available to the crew;

(3) Verify that internal and external audits are conducted in accordance with the approved TSMS; and

(4) Verify that recordkeeping requirements are met.

(b) Hull structure and appurtenances.

Verify that the vessel complies with part 144 of this subchapter and examine the condition, and where appropriate, witness the operation of the following:

(1) All accessible parts of the exterior and interior of the hull, the watertight bulkheads, and weather decks;

(2) All watertight closures in the hull, decks, and bulkheads, including through hull fittings and sea valves;

(3) Superstructure, masts, and similar arrangements constructed on the hull;

(4) Railings and bulwarks and their attachments to the hull structure;

(5) The presence of guards or rails in dangerous places;

(6) All weathertight closures above the weather deck and the provisions for drainage of sea water from the exposed decks;

(7) Watertight doors, verifying local and remote operation and proper fit;

(8) All accessible interior spaces to ensure that they are adequately ventilated and drained, and that means of escape are maintained and operate as intended; and

(9) Vessel markings.

(c) Machinery, fuel, and piping systems. Verify that the vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in part 143 of this subchapter and examine the condition, and where appropriate, witness the operation of the following:

(1) Engine control mechanisms, including primary and alternate means, if the vessel is equipped with alternate means, of starting machinery, directional controls, and emergency shutdowns;

(2) All machinery essential to the routine operation of the vessel, including generators and cooling systems;

(3) All fuel systems, including fuel tanks, tank vents, piping, and pipe fittings;

(4) All valves in fuel lines, including local and remote operation;

(5) All overboard discharge and intake valves and watertight bulkhead pipe penetration valves;

(6) Means provided for pumping bilges; and

(7) Machinery shut-downs and alarms.

(d) Steering systems. Examine the condition and, where appropriate, witness the operation of the following:

(1) Steering systems and equipment ensuring smooth operation;

(2) Auxiliary means of steering, if installed; and

(3) Alarms.

(e) Pressure vessels and boilers. Examine, maintain, repair, and test unfired pressure vessels and boilers in accordance with subpart C of part 143 of this chapter.

(f) Electrical. Verify vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in part 143 of this subchapter and examine the condition and, where appropriate, witness the operation of the following:

(1) All cables, as far as practicable, without undue disturbance of the cable or electrical apparatus;

(2) Circuit breakers, including testing by manual operation;

(3) Fuses, including ensuring the ratings of fuses are suitable for the service intended;

(4) All generators, motors, lighting fixtures, and circuit interrupting devices;

(5) Batteries including security of stowage;

(6) Electrical apparatus, which operates as part of or in conjunction with a fire detection or alarms system installed onboard the vessel, to ensure operation in case of fire; and

(7) All emergency electrical systems, including any automatic systems if installed.

(g) Lifesaving. Verify vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in part 141 of this subchapter and examine the condition of lifesaving equipment and systems as follows:

(1) Vessel is equipped with the required number of lifejackets, work vests, and immersion suits;

(2) Serviceable condition of each lifejacket, work vest, and marine buoyant device;

(3) Each lifejacket, other personal floatation device, and other lifesaving device found to be defective and incapable of repair, was destroyed;

(4) Each item of lifesaving equipment found to be defective has been repaired or replaced;

(5) Each piece of expired lifesaving equipment has been replaced;

(6) Operation of each rescue boat and its launching appliance and survival craft launching appliance in accordance with Subchapter W of this chapter;

(7) Servicing of each inflatable liferaft, inflatable buoyant apparatus, and inflatable lifejacket as required by Subchapter W of this chapter;

(8) Operation of each hydrostatic release unit as required by Subchapter W of this chapter; and

(9) Vessel’s crew conducted abandon ship and man overboard drills under simulated emergency conditions.

(h) Fire protection. Verify vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in part 142 of this subchapter and examine or verify fire protection equipment and systems as follows:

(1) Vessel is equipped with the required fire protection equipment for the vessel’s route and service;

(2) Examinations, testing, and maintenance as required by § 142.240 of this subchapter are performed; and

(3) Training requirements of § 142.245 of this subchapter are carried out.

(i) Towing gear. Verify vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in parts 140 and 143 of this subchapter and examine or verify the condition, and where appropriate, the operation of the following:

(1) Deck machinery including controls, guards, alarms and safety features;

(2) Hawsers, wires, bridles, push gear, and related vessel fittings for damage or wear; and

(3) Vessel complies with 33 CFR part 164, if applicable.

(j) Navigation equipment. Verify vessel complies with applicable requirements contained in part 140 of this subchapter and examine or verify the condition and, where appropriate, the operation of the following:

(1) Navigation systems and equipment;

(2) Navigation lights;

(3) Navigation charts or maps appropriate to the area of operation and corrected up to date;

(4) Operation of equipment and systems necessary to maintain visibility through the pilothouse windows; and

(5) Vessel complies with 33 CFR Part 164, if applicable.

(k) Sanitary examination. Examine quarters, toilet and washing spaces, galleys, serving pantries, lockers, and similar spaces to ensure that they are clean and decently habitable.

(l) Unsafe practices.

(1) Verify that all observed unsafe practices, fire hazards, and other hazardous situations are corrected, and all required guards and protective devices are in satisfactory condition; and

(2) Ensure that bilges and other spaces are free of excessive accumulation of oil, trash, debris, or other matter that might create a fire hazard, clog bilge pumping systems, or block emergency escapes.

(m) Vessel personnel. Verify that the:

(1) Vessel is manned in accordance with the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection;

(2) Crew is maintaining vessel logs and records in accordance with applicable regulations and the TSMS appropriate to the vessel;

(3) Crew is complying with the crew safety and personnel health requirements of part 140 of this subchapter;

(4) Crew has received training required by parts 140, 141, and 142 of this subchapter; and

(5) Vessel complies with part 140 of this subchapter.

(n) Prevention of oil pollution.

Examine the vessel to ensure compliance with the oil pollution § 140.655 of this subchapter.

(o) Miscellaneous systems and equipment. Examine all items in the vessel’s outfit, such as ground tackle, markings, and placards, which are required to be carried by the regulations in this subchapter.

Subpart C—Drydock and Internal Structural Surveys

  • 137.300 Documenting compliance for the TSMS option.

The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel must document compliance with this subpart as follows:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, the owner or managing operator must provide to the Coast Guard a report of a survey as described in § 137.215 of this part that demonstrates that the vessel complies with the drydock and internal structural survey requirements of this part, prior to obtaining the vessel’s initial Certificate of Inspection (COI).

(b) For re-issuance of the vessel’s COI:

(1) Provide objective evidence of a periodic survey as described in § 137.310 of this part; or

(2) Provide objective evidence of an audited program as described in § 137.315 of this part.

(c) Objective evidence of compliance with the load line assignment, certification, and marking requirements in subchapter E (Load lines) of this chapter must be provided as described in § 137.320 of this part.

  • 137.305 Intervals for drydock and internal structural examination.

(a) Regardless of the option chosen to obtain a COI, each towing vessel must undergo a drydock examination and internal structural examination at the following intervals:

(1) A vessel that is exposed to salt water more than 6 months in any 12-month period since the last survey must undergo a drydock and an internal structural survey at least twice every 5 years, with not more than 36 months between drydockings; and

(2) A vessel that is exposed to salt water not more than 6 months in any 12-month period since the last survey must undergo a drydock and an internal structural survey at least once every 5 years.

(b) The cognizant Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection may require further examination of the vessel whenever damage or deterioration to hull plating or structural members is discovered or suspected that may affect the seaworthiness of a vessel. This may include examination of the vessel on drydock, including:

(1) Internal structural examination of any affected space of a vessel, including fuel tanks;

(2) Removal of the vessel from service to assess the extent of the damage and to effect permanent repairs; or

(3) Adjusting the drydock examination intervals to monitor the vessel’s structural condition.

  • 137.310 Periodic survey for the TSMS option.

(a) The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel may demonstrate that the vessel complies with § 137.330 of this part by having an approved thirdparty surveyor conduct a survey of the vessel.

(b) The survey must be conducted at the intervals prescribed in § 137.305 of this part.

(c) The Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) applicable to the vessel must include policies and procedures for complying with this section.

(d) The applicable sections of the TSMS must be made available to the surveyor conducting the survey.

(e) The drydock and internal structural survey must be documented in a report that complies with the information required in § 137.205(b) of this part.

  • 137.315 Audited program for the TSMS option.

(a) The owner or managing operator of a towing vessel may demonstrate compliance with this subpart through an audited program. The Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) applicable to the vessel must include:

(1) An examination that meets the requirements contained in § 137.325 of this part;

(2) Qualifications of the personnel authorized to carry out examinations that are comparable to the requirements of an approved third-party surveyor as provided for in § 139.130 of this subchapter;

(3) Procedures for documenting and reporting non-conformities and deficiencies;

(4) Procedures for reporting and correcting major non-conformities;

(5) Identification of a responsible person in management who has the authority to stop all vessel operations pending correction, oversee vessel compliance activities, and track and verify the correction of non-conformities and deficiencies; and

(6) Identification of objective evidence that supports the completion of all elements of a vessel’s drydock and internal structural examinations.

(b) The third-party organization responsible for auditing the TSMS must be notified whenever activities related to credit drydocking or internal structural examinations are to be carried out.

(c) The interval between examinations of each item may not exceed the applicable interval described in § 137.305 of this part.

(d) Prior to commencing work, the owner or managing operator must notify the cognizant Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) of the zone within which activities related to credit drydocking or internal structural surveys are to be carried out.

(e) If the OCMI described in paragraph (d) of this section has reason to believe that an audited program of drydock and internal structural survey is deficient, s/he may:

(1) Require an audit of ongoing drydocking procedures and documentation applicable to the vessel in the presence of a representative of the cognizant OCMI;

(2) Increase the frequency of the audits; or

(3) Require a survey by an approved third party.

(4) Require any specific action within his power and authority deemed appropriate.

(5) For continued deficiencies, remove the vessel and/or owner or managing operator from the TSMS system.

  • 137.320 Vessels holding a valid load line certificate.

(a) A towing vessel with a valid load line certificate issued by a Recognized Classification Society will meet the requirements of this section.

(b) The cognizant OCMI may request copies of all pertinent load line survey documentation to include the last two periodic surveys.

  • 137.325 General conduct of survey for the TSMS option.

(a) When conducting a survey of a towing vessel as required by this subpart, the surveyor must determine that the hull and related structure and components are free of defects, deterioration, damage, or modifications that reduce effectiveness, and that the vessel is suitable for route and service.

(b) The survey must address the items in § 137.330 of this part as applicable, and include:

(1) Access to internal spaces as appropriate;

(2) Visual survey of the external structure of the vessel to confirm that the condition is properly maintained; and

(3) Visual survey to confirm that unapproved modifications were not made to the vessel.

(c) The thoroughness and stringency of the survey will depend upon the condition of the vessel.

(d) The owner or managing operator must notify the cognizant Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) when the condition of the vessel creates an unsafe condition.

(e) The cognizant OCMI may require that the owner or managing operator provide for the attendance of an approved third-party surveyor or auditor to assist with verifying compliance with this subpart.

  • 137.330 Scope of drydock examination.

(a) This regulation applies to all towing vessels covered by this subchapter. The drydock examination must be conducted while the vessel is hauled out of the water or placed in a drydock or slipway. The Coast Guard inspector or surveyor conducting this examination must:

(1) Examine the exterior of the hull, including bottom, sides, headlog, and stern; all appendages for damage, fractures, wastage, pitting, or improper repairs.

(2) Examine each tail shaft for bends, cracks, and damage, including the sleeves or other bearing contact surface(s) on the tail shaft for wear. The tail shaft need not be removed for examination if these items can otherwise be properly evaluated;

(3) Examine rudders for damage; upper and lower bearings for wear; and rudder stock for damage or wear. Rudders need not be removed for examination if these items can be properly evaluated without doing so;

(4) Examine propellers for cracks and damage;

(5) Examine exterior components of the machinery cooling system for leaks, damage, or deterioration;

(6) Open and examine all sea chests, thru-hull fittings, and strainers for damage, deterioration, or fouling; and

(7) On wooden vessels, pull fastenings as required for examination.

(b) An internal structural examination/survey required by this part may be conducted while the vessel is afloat or out of the water. It consists of a complete examination of the vessel’s main strength members, including the major internal framing, the hull plating and planking, voids, and ballast, cargo, and fuel oil tanks. Where the internal framing, plating, or planking of the vessel is concealed, sections of the lining, ceiling, or insulation may be removed or the parts otherwise probed or exposed to determine the condition of the hull structure. Fuel oil tanks need not be cleaned out and internally examined if the general condition of the tanks is determined to be satisfactory by external examination.

  • 137.335 Underwater survey in lieu of drydocking.

(a) This section applies to all towing vessels subject to this subchapter. If a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) is applicable to the vessel, the TSMS may include policies and procedures for employing and documenting an underwater survey in lieu of drydocking (UWILD). A UWILD may be conducted if:

(1) No obvious damage or defects in the hull adversely affecting the seaworthiness of the vessel are present;

(2) The vessel has been operated satisfactorily since the last drydocking;

(3) The vessel is less than 15 years of age;

(4) The vessel has a steel or aluminum hull; and

(5) The vessel is fitted with an effective hull protection system.

(b) The owner or operator must submit an application at least 90 days before the vessel’s next required drydock examination. The application must include:

(1) The procedure for carrying out the underwater survey;

(2) The time and place of the underwater survey;

(3) The method used to accurately determine the diver’s or remotely operated vehicle (ROV)’s location relative to the hull;

(4) The means for examining all through-hull fittings and appurtenances;

(5) The condition of the vessel, including the anticipated draft of the vessel at the time of the survey;

(6) A description of the hull protection system; and

(7) The name and qualifications of any third party examiner, if used.

(c) If a vessel is 15 years old or older, the Commandant may approve an underwater survey instead of a drydock examination, at alternating intervals. The owner or operator must submit an application to the OCMI at least 90 days before the vessel’s next required drydock examination. The owner or operator may follow this option if—

(1) The vessel is qualified under paragraphs (a)(1), (2), (4), and (5) of this section;

(2) The application includes the information described in paragraphs (b)(1) through (7) of this section; and

(3) During the vessel’s drydock examination preceding the underwater survey, a complete set of hull gauging was taken which indicated that the vessel was free from appreciable hull deterioration.

(d) After the drydock examination required by paragraph (c)(3) of this section, the OCMI will submit a recommendation for future underwater surveys, the results of the hull gauging, and the results of the Coast Guard’s drydock examination to Commandant for review.

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