TVIB News Subchapter M Updates

USCG: D8 Policy on Bulwark Height for Rivers Routes

Bulwark/handrail height has become a hot-button issue with the USCG during COI inspections, at least in one OCMI zone within D8.  District 8 and the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CVC) have upheld the Marine Inspector’s finding on every appeal. Some customers have even been denied the vessel’s COI as a result of this finding.  As a result, we reached out to D8 Towing Vessel Coordinator, Jill Bessetti, and obtained the following information.

At issue is a vessel’s bulwarks and/or handrails being less than the OSHA recommended height of 39.5”- 40”.  In an appeal determination letter, D8 Chief of Prevention stated the minimum height that would provide equivalent protection would be 30” from the deck. If non-compliant bulwarks/handrails are found on the vessel, the Marine Inspector should issue a CG-835v and should mark the deficiency as a work list item, meaning it would not be visible in PSIX.  The company would then submit their proposal for bringing the vessel into compliance.  According to District 8, no COI should be held up as a result of this deficiency.  In instances where space or the vessel’s operations make installing compliant bulwarks/handrails not feasible, hand grabs would be accepted as an acceptable alternative.

SUB M: Audit and Survey Timelines

Subchapter M has now been in effect for two years and nine months. There have been many audits and surveys, as well as a few drydock/internal structural exams during this timeframe. It is no secret, tracking these Subchapter M events is far from easy. We would like to focus on a few high-level dates, that are significantly important related to audits and surveys for those operators that selected the TSMS option. Some of this information may be specific to TVIB, and there may be slight variances in expectations for other TPOs.

While the tables (linked here and below) present information in a logical manner, it is important to establish what constitutes meeting the compliance deadline. TVIB considers a deadline to be met on the date that TVIB distributes the final report. Performing the activity does not in itself achieve the deadline. For a report to be marked final, the auditor/surveyor must perform the activity, draft the report and submit it to TVIB staff for review. Once TVIB has reviewed the report and accepts the corrective action plan, the report is marked final and is distributed.

Therefore, a vessel owner/operator and auditor/surveyor must allow sufficient time for the review process to take place, including any necessary clarifications or revisions. In most cases, a report can be reviewed and finalized within 3-4 business days, but occasionally the review process may take longer. The tables contain our recommendations on timing for submitting audit/survey reports for review. These recommendations are designed to help the vessel owner/operator ensure a compliance deadline for an audit/survey is not missed.

While there are multiple factors that should be considered before the Coast Guard deems a TSMS Certificate or COI invalid, it is TVIB’s goal that a missed audit/survey compliance date is not among those factors.

Lastly, TVIB has established a working group that is looking at ways to improve the process for identifying, acting on, and verifying corrective actions. It is possible this working group’s recommendations create slight adjustments to timeframes for submitting reports to TVIB. Should any change occur, we will update the tables as necessary.

Download TVIBs Subchapter M Audit and Survey Timelines tables.

We hope you find the above information and below tables helpful. If there is a topic you would like us to consider for our blog, please contact one of our staff members or submit it to


TVIB: Date Change for Subchapter M Auditor Certification Course

The Subchapter M Auditor Course has been rescheduled for April 13th-14th. Register for the April training at the link below or contact Danielle Munoz at: 832-323-4175 — for assistance.

Our Subchapter M Auditor Certification Course is for auditors who wish to become certified by TVIB to perform audits of Towing Safety Management Systems to verify compliance with Subchapter M. The American Waterways Operators (AWO) Responsible Carrier Program (RCP) has been approved by the Coast Guard as an approved existing safety management system, and as such, this auditing course will cover some elements of the RCP. This is the appropriate class to complete in order to obtain a TVIB certified auditor credential. It is open to both TVIB members and non-members alike.

The course focuses on training external (third-party) auditors how to use the TVIB audit process, which was developed to meet ISO 19011 Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems, and tailored for the unique situations auditing under Subchapter M and the RCP. It covers auditing both management systems and the vessels that operate under those systems.  It is a hybrid of online and in-classroom learning, with many practical exercises designed to allow students to practice all aspects of auditing. The online pre-course portion MUST be completed prior to attending class.

This course meets the requirements of 46 CFR 139.130(b)(4) for those seeking to perform external audits under a TPO.

*If you are a TVIB member please register through the member portal to receive your member discount.

**If you are a TPO customer employee or a Supporting Organization employee, please contact your company’s representative for log in information to obtain the member discount for this course.

Register- April 13-14

Who Should Attend

  • Auditors who wish to become certified by TVIB to perform American Waterways Operators (AWO) Responsible Carrier Program (RCP) audits and Subchapter M TSMS audits. If you’re interested in certification, you will need to complete and submit the auditor member application and application fee. Your application must be screened by the TVIB Certification Committee and approved prior to attending the course. Those individuals who want the training without becoming certified are not required to submit a TVIB membership application.
  • Marine executives, HSE managers, operations managers, safety consultants and regulators seeking more in-depth information about the AWO RCP and Subchapter M.
  • Individuals who are interested in obtaining Subchapter M and/or the RCP training without becoming a certified auditor are welcome to attend the class.

Please note that TVIB reserves the right to cancel this course based on enrollment numbers and/or instructor availability no later than two weeks before the first day of class.  TVIB will not be responsible for reimbursements to course registrants for travel/accommodation expenses.