American Waterways Operators (AWO) pressed Congress Tuesday to get the
long-awaited towing vessel inspection rule published before the current Coast
Guard commandant’s watch is over next year.
Coast Guard commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. was four-year term began in mid-2010.
rule offers a “historic opportunity to take safety in our industry to a new
level,” much like the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA ’90) did for tankers, AWO
president Thomas A. Allegretti told the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and
it, operators “face real vulnerability,” he said, citing a National
Transportation Safety Board recommendation following a 1998 accident that all
towing vessels implement a safety management system. A tow pushed by the Anne Holly allided with the Eads Bridge
over the Mississippi River in St. Louis causing $11 million in damages.
management systems are a key component of the Subchapter M rule and, Allegretti
said, also may have prevented the massive 2008 oil spill on the Lower
Mississippi River when the towboat Mel
Oliver pushed a loaded barge into the path of the 600' tanker Tintomara, slicing the barge in half.
rule — one of the most significant for the towing industry since operators were
required to be licensed in 1972 — was first required in the 2004 Maritime
Transportation Safety Act. It covers about 6,000 towing vessels. Compliance
will cost operators an estimated $14 million to $18 million annually over a
10-year phase-in period. Twenty-five percent of a fleet must obtain a
certificate of inspection each year.
are very frustrated that this congressionally mandated rulemaking has taken so
long, and that there is no clear end in sight,” Allegretti said.
pointed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Coast Guard’s parent,
as one of the problems. “We are very concerned that the Coast Guard will finish
its work on the Subchapter M rulemaking, only to have it languish at the
department,” he said.
notice of proposed rulemaking was sent to DHS in early 2009 and not published
until August of 2011, more than two years later. AWO wants the Coast Guard to
send the final rule to DHS for review and completion this year, so it can be
cleared by the Office of Management and Budget “on this commandant’s watch.”
are aggressively adjudicating the 3,000 comments we received,” Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, Coast Guard assistant commandant for prevention policy, told
the committee. “There’s somewhat of a balance between a quick rule and a good
Coast Guard has cut its rulemaking projects from 97 in 2008 to 68 today, he
said, but “we are not where we want to be.” He expects a backlog of 76 by the
end of the year.