Subchapter M

Webinar: TSMS Familiarity Is Key To Maintaining Safety Culture

There are many paths to safety awareness, but towboat operators—and especially, vessel captains—need to be sure that all crewmembers are thoroughly familiar with what’s in the vessel’s towing safety management system (TSMS).

That was the thrust of a safety webinar held by The American Waterways Operators February 25 and recently posted to its website. Titled, “Safety Know-How: Helping Your Crewmembers Embrace and Understand Your TSMS,” the panel discussion was led by Caitlyn Stewart, senior director of regulatory affairs at AWO.

Panelists included Coast Guard Cmdr. Jennifer Hnatow, division chief of domestic vessel and offshore compliance; Tava Foret, executive vice president of the Towing Vessel Inspection Bureau; Matthew Lagarde, assistant vice president HSSE at Ingram Barge Company; Paul Hite of the American Bureau of Shipping; and Ryan Maloney of Dann Ocean Towing.

Hnatow opened the discussion with some compliance statistics from 2019. The total inland fleet was supposed to be fully compliant with Subchapter M by 2018, but the process of issuing certificates of inspection (COIs) to document that compliance has been staggered and broken up into phases.

By this July 20, 100 percent of single-vessel operators and 50 percent of multi-vessel fleets are supposed to have COIs.  Hnatow said that the 75 percent of the inland fleet that has been certificated so far went with a towing safety management system (TSMS) option, and the rest chose direct Coast Guard inspections.

In 2019, out of 111 total vessel detentions for all causes, AWO members had nine member vessels detained and eight “code 30s” issued on four different vessels. A “code 30” is a deficiency finding that the crew is insufficiently familiar with the vessel’s TSMS.

So far in 2020, there have been five AWO members vessels detained, with one code 30 non-compliance issued. Hnatow said the relatively low number of deficiency findings meant that “the TSMS option is working.”

Hnatow reminded listeners that once a vessel is boarded for a marine casualty, the Coast Guard team can look for anything and the inspection can be expanded to all vessels of the operators. “We check not only to see that the vessels have the right equipment, but also that the crew is familiar with it,” said Hnatow.

Hnatow said common concerns in these types of detentions could be the crew reporting a lack of shoreside support for safety concerns; a lack of proper training; or a crew lack of familiarity with provisions of the TSMS.

The third-party organizations that develop TSMS for operators have several different ways of checking crew knowledge. Foret said TVIB’s audit protocols are “robust,” and that follow-up questions are designed to uncover the answer to the question, “What does your TSMS say, and are you doing what it says?” Hite said he conducts desktop reviews of a client’s TSMS before he ever sets foot on a vessel.

To the question, “How is the TPO notified when a vessel receives a COI?” Hnatow said only operators are notified when a COI is issued; it’s the operator’s responsibility to notify their TPOs. Hite agreed, saying, “We act as a shepherd and advisor; we don’t track vessels or fleets for our customers; it’s incumbent on the operator to track all of their COIs.” The operator will also be notified if a deficiency notice is issued.

Hite stressed that the vessel’s master must be involved, since he or she is responsible for any deficiencies. Getting crew ownership of safety procedures, through feedback and suggestions, is important. Some TPOs use programs that can be accessed through crew smartphones; others have computer stations or binders in common areas. Lagarde said one good practice is to assign a crewmember to be in charge of materials. Ingram has a week-long shoreside safety program taken on a host barge by all new crewmembers before they join their vessels.

The panel didn’t get to some questions before time was, up, but AWO subsequently sent panelists’ answers in an email. In response to the question of what a company does once a training-related nonconformity is identified during an internal audit, LaGarde said, “Right now, we are treating individual identified training non-conformities as just that. The personnel are identified by name and each item is entered as a non-conformity into the corrective action tracker (in HELM) to be closed out by the person/vessel. Trends are tracked to be addressed by vessel, or by operations managers, or by region, or by company division as necessary depending on the scope and frequency of similar non-conformities.”

Hite explained that once an auditor has raised a non-conformity citing the specific RCP Section K or Coast Guard training requirement that has not been met, the company is responsible for submitting a corrective action plan to the auditor within 14 days of original audit. The auditor will then review the proposed corrective actions and respond to the company with approval or additional comments. Once the corrective action plan is approved, the auditor shall verify that corrective actions have been implemented within 90 days of the original audit.

A corrective action plan, said Hite, addresses the non-conformity raised by the auditor and includes a root cause analysis, measures to correct the non-conformity and measures to prevent recurrence of the non-conformity. “[The] effectiveness of a training program is ascertained through audit performance. Training program elements (frequency, delivery, competency testing) may need to be evaluated when composing a plan for training-related corrective action.”

The webinar is available on the AWO website at