TSAC’s Charter Allowed To Lapse

In a move that inland navigation industry members say “blindsided” them, Coast Guard officials informed them recently that the charter constituting the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) was not going to be filed by the deadline of the end of the fiscal year in September.

That means that the towing industry might not have a TSAC for the next 1½ to two years. Because it is one of the most important committees to the inland navigation industry, its volunteer members—who serve without pay—have included a roster of the most prominent names in the towing industry. TSAC members serve for up to three years and can serve two consecutive terms.

The news was delivered to members of The American Waterways Operators (AWO) during a meeting of the AWO’s Midwest Region Roundtable in St. Louis, Mo., on August 22 by Caitlyn Stewart, director of regulatory affairs for AWO.

Stewart said that Congress reauthorized TSAC under another name in the last appropriations bill, adding the word “National” to its title. When that happens, the Coast Guard has to reconstitute it from scratch. That requires writing a new charter, getting it approved, advertising the positions, and getting prospective members vetted by the White House. All that can take anywhere from 1-1/2 to two years.

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There is another option, however. The Coast Guard could choose to reconstitute the committee under its current name and invite current members to reapply. A new charter would not have to be written, and members who have already been vetted would not need to undergo that process again.

Industry insiders who have served on those committees say the informal interactions and communications between industry representatives and regulators can help craft good rules and head off bad ones before they are written.