One of the towing industry’s original safety initiatives, the Responsible Carrier Program, was accepted this week by the Coast Guard as an existing Safety Management System that complies with Subchapter M.

“This is a significant milestone in the implementation of Subchapter M… your staff and your members are to be commended on this remarkable achievement,” Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, the assistant commandant for prevention policy, wrote in a letter to the American Waterways Operators announcing the final decision. “This is an important first step in instilling a culture of safety across the towing industry.”

Organized by AWO two decades ago, the Responsible Carrier Program promoted safety and environmental safeguards and has been mandatory for companies with AWO membership. Back then, a partnership between the industry group and the Coast Guard delved into the causes of towing accidents.

That grew into a long-term working relationship, and ultimately a decision by AWO directors to support the Coast Guard in extending inspections to the previously uninspected towboat fleet. The end result of Subchapter M went into effect in July.

Along with options to have inspections done by Coast Guard specialists or certified third-party surveyors, Subchapter M permits towing operators to use an approved Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) to keep their vessels in compliance. Companies that fully comply with the Responsible Carrier Program can now obtain a TSMS certificate, Thomas said.

Coast Guard acceptance of the Responsible Carrier Program as one option had been in the works for months and Jennifer A. Carpenter, AWO’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, announced the official decision Monday in an e-mail to members.

In December, AWO officials will meet with the Coast Guard’s Subchapter M Implementation Team to discuss transition issues, and ease the way for member companies to use the facilitate members’ use of the Responsible Carrier Program as a vehicle for compliance with the TSMS option under Subchapter M.




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.