The Coast Guard released a bulletin Friday directing each sector, Marine Safety Unit, and other units that exercise officer in charge, marine inspection (OCMI) authority to conduct a third-party organization (TPO) oversight stand down within 30 days.

The objective of the stand down is to ensure unit members understand and properly execute
the new Mission Management System (MMS) work instructions and procedures regarding domestic
vessel inspections and Coast Guard oversight responsibilities.

Effective TPO oversight is crucial to ensuring all inspected vessels meet applicable
safety, security, and environmental protection standards, the Coast Guard said. On Oct. 1, 2015, the El Faro and
her 33 crewmembers were lost at sea. One of the causal factors that led to this tragedy was
the failure of the Coast Guard to provide effective oversight of TPOs performing statutory
functions on its behalf under the alternate compliance program (ACP). In addition, the use of TPOs
is expanding. On July 20, 2018, Subchapter M went into force. These regulations added approximately 5,800 towing vessels to the U.S. inspected fleet and permits additional TPOs to perform statutory functions on behalf of the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is ultimately responsible to monitor the performance of TPOs. Significant
progress has been made to improve the policy framework and reform Coast Guard oversight of
TPOs. The Coast Guard has made substantial changes to the oversight program and published work
instructions and procedures that form a solid foundation for this program. However, it is
critical that OCMIs embrace and drive these changes and improvements down to the deck plates
to ensure all members of Inspections and Investigations Divisions understand and properly
execute, the Coast Guard said. Units will assess current oversight functions within their OCMI zone and ensure
operations are being conducted in accordance with the revised procedures.

Stand down training material is available at:

Training materials will be permanently posted on the COMDT (CG-CVC-4) portal site for
future participation. For questions regarding the stand down, please contact COMDT (CG-CVC-4)
at: [email protected].

As the lead agency for U.S.-flag administration, the Coast Guard is the final element
in the vessel safety framework and must conduct effective TPO oversight, increase focus on
improving Safety Management Systems, and promote a healthy safety culture, the Coast Guard said.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.