APPEALS AND ALTERNATE COMPLIANCE OPTIONS
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 Alternate Standards

Towing vessels that comply with SOLAS Chapter II-2 (Construction – Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction) are deemed to be in compliance with Subchapter M fire protection requirements.

Towing vessels that comply with SOLAS Chapter III (Life-saving appliances and arrangements) are deemed to be in compliance with Subchapter M lifesaving requirements.  In addition, towing vessels that operate on an international voyage would also need to meet the applicable requirements of 46 CFR Subchapter W.

Objective evidence of compliance with SOLAS Chapter II-2 and III could be a valid SOLAS Safety Equipment Certificate; however, other forms of objective evidence can be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Towing vessels built to meet SOLAS requirements are deemed to be in compliance with 46 CFR Subchapter M Part 144 design and construction standards.  Objective evidence of being built to meet SOLAS requirements for design and construction could be a valid SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Construction Certificate; however other forms of objective evidence can be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Classed towing vessel are deemed to be in compliance with Subchapter M structure, stability and watertight integrity standards outlined in 46 CFR 144 Subparts  B and C.

Regulatory Cites:

46 CFR 136.112 Incorporation by reference
46 CFR 141.105 Applicability
46 CFR 142.205 Alternate standards
46 CFR 144.120 A classed vessel
46 CFR 144.130 A vessel built to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, requirements

46 CFR 141.225 allows a Third Party Organization (TPO) to approve alternative means for complying with 46 CFR 141.340 (lifejackets), 141.350 (Immersion suits), and 141.360 (lifebuoys) for vessels that utilize a TSMS.  Minimum criteria that must be met before an alternate means of complying with the above listed requirements can be granted by a TPO are found in respective regulatory sections – i.e. 46 CFR 141.340 for lifejackets.

Regulatory Cites:

46 CFR 141.225 Alternate arrangements or equipment
46 CFR 141.340 Lifejackets
46 CFR 141.350 Immersion suits
46 CFR 141.360 Lifebuoys

Filing a formal appeal is the process for an owner/operator of inspected vessels to follow when there is disagreement concerning the meaning, interpretation, or application of requirements with the Coast Guard Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise (TVNCOE), a Coast Guard District Commander, a Coast Guard Officer in-Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI), a classification society, or a Third Party Organization (TPO).  Efforts to resolve disagreements should always be made at the lowest level possible; however, when resolution cannot be found, the owner/operator has the right to initiate an appeal.  The appeal process used is determined by the event, person, or organization that initiated the decision or action being appealed.  To avoid delays in processing an appeal, an owner/operator should carefully read the requirements for initiating the same:

  1. TVNCOE actions/determination: 46 CFR 1.03-55(c)
  2. District Commander or OCMI actions/determination: 46 CFR 1.03-55(d)
  3. Vessel surveys: 46 CFR 1.03-55(a)
  4. ISM SMS audits: 33 CFR 96.495
  5. TSMS audits: 46 CFR 1.03-55(b)
  6. RCP SMS audits: The American Waterways Operators Responsible Carrier Program Section III paragraph B Dispute Resolution Policy.

Additional information within Subchapter M related to appeals can be found in 46 CFR136.180 and 139.155.  Section 136.180 discusses appeals directly related to Coast Guard decisions and Section 139.155 discusses appeals related to the suspension or revocation of a TSMS approval by a TPO.

Regulatory Cites:

33 CFR 96.495
46 CFR 1.03-55

Additional Guidance:

The American Waterways Operators Responsible Carrier Program
Roadmap to Successful Submissions: Exemptions, Appeals & Equivalencies - A Guide for Owner/Operators of Commercial Vessels
NVIC 16-82 Appeal of Coast Guard Commercial Vessel Decisions and Actions

Under certain conditions, electronic certificates can be a practical alternative to paper certificates
provided there is a reliable method to verify the validity and authenticity of the certificate(s). CG-CVC Policy letter 17-09
has been developed based on the guidance provided in FAL.5/Circ.39 Rev.2 “Guidelines for the Use of Electronic Certificates” and
details the provisions under which electronic certificates may be issued by an ACS, RO, or TPO to U.S. Flag vessels.

Additional Guidance:

CG-CVC Policy Letter 17-09 - Issuance And Acceptance Of Electronic Certificates

Towing vessel owners who would like to utilize alternate arrangements or equipment for Subchapter M compliance should request an equivalency.  In accordance with 46 CFR 136.115, the Coast Guard may approve any arrangement, fitting, appliance, apparatus, equipment, calculation, information, or test that provides an equivalent level of safety established by Subchapter M.  Equivalency requests are submitted through the cognizant OCMI.

Regulatory Cites:

46 CFR 136.115 Equivalents

Additional Guidance:

Marine Safety Center Marine Technical Note MTN 1-17
Roadmap to Successful Submissions: Exemptions, Appeals & Equivalencies – A Guide for Owner/Operators of Commercial Vessels

Exemptions are written requests to the OCMI for relief from meeting a specific regulation. Not all regulations allow exemptions.  Exemptions are very specific and cover only portions of a subpart or section.  If an exemption is allowed it will be clearly stated in the regulation. If there is no statement allowing an exemption for a particular regulation or portion of the regulation then there is no exemption allowed in that instance, and another avenue, such as an equivalency must be used to address the issue.

Additional Guidance:

Roadmap to Successful Submissions: Exemptions, Appeals & Equivalencies – A Guide for Owner/Operators of Commercial Vessels

Towing vessels that meet the definition of an “excepted vessel” are exempt by regulation from compliance with certain regulatory sections of Subchapter M.  The definition of an excepted vessel can be found in 46 CFR 136.110.  Being an excepted vessel does not exempt a vessel from having to comply with Subchapter M in its entirety.  Excepted vessel are focused and limited to specific sections within Subchapter M Parts 142 and 143.  If an excepted vessel does not need to comply with a section it will explicitly state the same within the section.

Regulatory Cites:

46 CFR 136.110 definitions

 Special Consideration

The cognizant OCMI who issues the COI may give special consideration(s) authorizing departures from specific regulatory requirements.  Special considerations are only granted when unusual circumstances or arrangements warrant such departures and when an equivalent level of safety is provided.  Special consideration determinations are based on a review of relevant information, including any TSMS applicable to the vessel.  See CVC-WI-010(1) OCMI Guidance on Special Consideration for 46 CFR Subchapter M Vessels for detailed guidance.  As an alternative, for vessels that operate in multiple OCMI zones, the owner/managing operator may seek an equivalency as outlined in 46 CFR 136.115.

Regulatory Cites:

46 CFR 136.115 Equivalents
46 CFR 136.120 Special consideration
46 CFR 144.215 Special Consideration

Additional Guidance:

CVC-WI-010(2) OCMI Guidance on Special Consideration for 46 CFR Subchapter M Vessels
Marine Safety Center Marine Technical Note MTN 1-17
Roadmap to Successful Submissions: Exemptions, Appeals & Equivalencies – A Guide for Owner/Operators of Commercial Vessels