Coast Guard Releases 2019 Annual Report

The U.S. Coast Guard has released its latest edition of “Flag State Control in the United States,” the agency’s domestic annual report for 2019. The report overviews statistics and information related to inspections and regulation enforcement aboard U.S.-flagged vessels. The document also breaks down deficiency and detention rates for inspected domestic vessels in the United States, along with performance data for organizations that work on the Coast Guard’s behalf.

Across the board, Coast Guard marine inspectors conducted 21,471 inspections aboard U.S.-flagged vessels, including inland towing vessels, and identified 31,738 deficiencies. That’s a 7.1 percent increase in inspections. The rate of deficiencies identified per inspection increased from 1.26 to 1.48, about a 20.5 percent increase.

Rear Adm. Richard Timme, assistant commandant for prevention policy for the U.S. Coast Guard, called the agency’s vessel compliance program a “systemic safety net that works to prevent accidents from occurring.” While the Coast Guard is responsible for verifying compliance, Timme said the “safety net” is much more a team effort.

“A vessel’s master and crew are the front line of this safety network and should be the first to recognize a problem, taking early corrective action,” Timme said. “The vessel owner has an obligation to support the master and crew’s ability to maintain the vessel and operate it safely. Additionally, and where applicable, a classification society, recognized organization or third party organization should provide effective technical expertise to ensure vessel systems are operating properly and the company and crew are fulfilling their roles in the safety net.”

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Timme pointed to 2019 as the second year of the Subchapter M phase-in period, calling maritime industry leaders to stay on top of scheduling inspections.

“Towing vessels without a Certificate of Inspection after July 19, 2022, will not be able to conduct commercial operations and could be subject to civil penalties,” Timme said.

For 2019, of the 21,471 inspections, 6,190 were conducted aboard towing vessels that fall under Subchapters M and I. A total of 4,799 inspections were conducted aboard barges. And while deficiencies per vessel were at 1.48 for 2019, the ratio of deficiencies per vessel were lowest aboard barges (0.34 per vessel inspected) and towing vessels (0.48 per vessel inspected). The highest incidences of deficiencies per vessel inspected were aboard research and school vessels (4.83 per vessel inspected) and aboard cargo vessels (4.29 per vessel inspected).

Interestingly, towing vessels, with their low rate of deficiency, make up the oldest segment of the fleet. The average age among towing vessels is 35 years.

Conversely, in 2019, towing vessels saw the highest percentage of marine casualties, with 62.5 percent of marine casualties occurring aboard vessels falling under Subchapters M and I. Barges accounted for 17.6 percent of marine casualties. Passenger vessels ranked second, with 27.9 percent of marine casualties in 2019. For both barges and towing vessels, the most frequent casualty type involved collision, allision or grounding (60.4 percent and 46.1 percent of all incidents, respectively).

The Coast Guard numbered the total towing vessel fleet in 2019 at 7,063 active vessels, of which inland towing vessels comprise a large majority. At 7,063, towing vessels represent just over 35 percent of the total U.S.-flagged vessel fleet.

According to the report, 2,536 inspections were conducted aboard Subchapter M towing vessels in 2019, with a total of 3,271 deficiencies identified. There were roughly 0.5 deficiencies identified per Subchapter M vessel in 2019.

The 2019 report also includes a section on recognized organizations (class societies) and Subchapter M-recognized third party organizations. However, the report only includes statistics related to surveys and statutory findings from recognized organizations.