The American Bureau of Shipping has been approved by the American Waterways Operators to carry out audits of AWO’s Responsible Carrier Program. The RCP, used for years by many AWO member companies, is a major component for implementing the Coast Guard’s new Subchapter M inspection regime for towboats, tugs and barges.

Subchapter M regulations that began taking effect July 20 establish vessel safety and inspection requirements. To obtain the newly required certificates of inspection (COIs), vessel owners and operators can opt for annual Coast Guard inspections, or adopt a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS).

The RCP has origins in the 1990s, as the Coast Guard and AWO studied towing accidents and looked for ways the industry could improve safety and environmental safeguards. As the final rule for Subchapter M emerged this year, early on AWO submitted its RCP program for Coast Guard acceptance as a TSMS. Final approval is anticipated this fall.

"ABS recognizes that with new Subchapter M requirements in place, towing vessel owners need a trusted technical advisor that understands their unique operational challenges and can help navigate regulatory requirements," said Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS chairman and CEO, in announcing the agreement with AWO.  "Gaining RCP auditor status adds to our wide-ranging solutions which are supported by a team of technical experts located strategically across the country and include a comprehensive suite of Rules and Guides that demonstrate our steadfast commitment to safety and environmental protection."

"This agreement with ABS expands the pool of well-qualified, well-trained third-party auditors who can conduct RCP/TSMS audits," said Tom Allegretti, AWO president and CEO. "This is consistent with AWO's longstanding goal of facilitating member compliance with Subchapter M and raising standards of safety and environmental stewardship throughout the tugboat, towboat and barge industry."

"As we meet with towing vessel owners, we hear repeated requests for help in identifying compliance options that best fit their fleet needs," said ABS Americas Division President James Watson. "Achieving RCP approval expands ABS' offering and increases the portfolio of services we can offer towing vessel owners and operators on inland waterways, coasts, and harbors."

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.