The American Bureau of Shipping is rolling out a new Subchapter M Type Approval program, to certify original equipment manufacturers’ products as compliant with the new Coast Guard rules for towing vessels.

For fleet operators and shipyards, the service offers “confidence that the equipment they install will meet the regulations,” said Joshua LaVire, inland marine market manager for ABS. “It’s a natural extension of what we do.”

ABS was the first classification society approved by the Coast Guard to offer third-party services under Subchapter M, including vessel inspections and Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) audits. Deadlines for meeting vessel requirements begin July 20, 2017 and will continue until full fleet compliance in early 2022.

Original equipment manufacturers want Subchapter M type approvals, according to ABS, because “it will allow them to market their component to the yards as ‘Sub M ready,’ and will help to streamline the Sub M compliance process for tug owners and operators who are buying or retrofitting vessels before the deadline.”

To get type approval for a specific component — say, a fire protection water pump — ABS will work with the OEM requesting the approval. A product design assessment by ABS engineers certifies the pump is compliant with Subchapter M, LaVire said. When the pump is shipped to the customer, it comes with a type approval certificate “that provides the end user with proof of compliance,” he said.

“It can be equipment or components,” including cabling and motors, LaVire said. “It’s a diverse range of products we can type approve.” Shipyards can include type approval in their specifications for vendors to have confidence all parts meet Sub M requirements, he said.

“We’ve had type approval for a very long time” under international rules including the IMO, SOLAS, Marpol and the regulations of bluewater flag nations, LaVire said. Taking on the Sub M type approvals “fits in with our own rules, and dovetails with the European regulations for the Marine Equipment Directive,” he said.

Along with inspections and audits, ABS can also work with owners and consult with the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center to determine if a planned vessel upgrade, such as repowering, might trigger the “major modification” threshold, requiring across the board updating to new vessel standards.

“We’re the only company that offers this full suite (of Sub M services) with full-time U.S. based employees,” said Jesse Lashbrook, ABS’ global marine marketing manager. The Sub M type approval process is not limited to the U.S., but open to original equipment manufacturers worldwide, he said: “They can participate in this market.”



Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.