Coast Guard Details TSMS Reporting Requirements

As the final implementation date for Subchapter M approaches this coming July, the Coast Guard released another in a series of policy letters. The letters clarify the meaning and definition of terms for companies that choose to use a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) to comply with Subchapter M.

The latest letter, Policy Letter 17-10, released November 28, addresses how third-party organizations (TPOs) are to report nonconformities, and especially how such reporting is to be stored on official Coast Guard databases.

When a TPO finds a nonconformity, it must report it to the database, called the Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE). But the policy letter specifies that nonconformities, including major nonconformities, will be listed in the database as “work list items” and stored in a non-public section of the database, not in the Coast Guard’s public Port State Information Exchange (PSIX) vessel database.

The letter allows some discretion to the Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection (OCMI) in deciding what, if any, corrective actions to impose. “If necessary, the OCMI may impose control actions to ensure the vessel does not pose an unnecessary safety hazard to people, the waterway, or the environment. The identification of the non-conformity and the successful resolution of the condition, with the concurrence of the OCMI, demonstrate that the vessel’s TSMS is functioning properly.”

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The OCMI may allow the TPO to correct the nonconforming conditions, but written permission from the OCMI must be given.

In its December 20 newsletter to its members, The American Waterways Operators said the policy letter “is a meaningful demonstration of the Coast Guard’s intent to encourage use of the TSMS option and its support of safety management systems as the best way to ensure continuous regulatory compliance.”