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Who wrote the Subchapter M FAQs?

Having worked for, or with, the Coast Guard for over 30 years, I found the latest round of Subchapter M “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)” quite strange. I understand that the Coast Guard is having to deal with quite a few new vessels to inspect, and that they may be trying to appease those who wanted the third party TSMS option to be the only option, but this latest round of FAQs dated August 31, 2016 reads more like a talking points memo with plenty of spin to sway readers in one direction. 

Having discussed it with some clients, I am not alone in having this perception. One of my clients stated after reading them, “This sounds like intimidation!” I have nothing to base this on other than my gut, but my gut tells me these FAQs were not written by the Coast Guard.

Great! TPO doesn’t have to go on my individual boats?
The first question I have is, what qualifies these to be frequently asked questions? Some of these questions seem pretty obscure, designed solely to be able to provide an answer with an agenda. For example: What must a TPO do before issuing a TSMS Certificate? Really? Even if all the TPOs asked this, I’m not sure it would qualify as a FAQ. But the last line of the answer explains the question: The TPO is not required to visit individual vessels before issuing a TSMS certificate. Reading this one might think: Oh, great, that’s what I was worried about. I know the office has it down pat, but the boats have me concerned. What the answer doesn’t say is the boats still have to pass a third party external audit in order to get a COI.

Great! Third Party Option takers have greater flexibility in scheduling and less down time.
When I was a Coast Guard marine inspector the vessel company called us up, we asked what day they wanted, we marked it in our book. Every morning we checked the book, divided up the jobs and went and did them. Only those who were not ready for inspection had problems. 

Great! Third Party Option takers get a de-scoped COI inspection and the Coast Guard option people get the full business.
I’m no lawyer, but the regulations are usually in line with the law, and the policy is usually in line with the regulations. The regulations clearly state what the COI inspection “will include.” Only the annual inspection, according to the regulations, “will cover less detail.” This is standard operating procedure, but a de-scoped COI inspection seems to be a stretch. 

How will the Coast Guard ensure compliance for vessels taking the Coast Guard only option? 
This answer is so over the top, I only have one suggestion: remove the words “ensure compliance for” and replace them with the word “punish.”

Will the Coast Guard use Petty Officers for Subchapter M?
What a curious “frequently” asked question. I have never heard anyone ask this. Most people don’t know an enlisted person from an officer. On the other hand, I have heard many unfortunate stories about the inconsistency and lack of knowledge demonstrated by enlisted towing vessel examiners during the bridging program. One towboat owner assured me he would not be using the Subchapter M Coast Guard option due to his experience with the enlisted towing vessel examiners. Oh, wait. I get it now. That’s why this was included as an FAQ…

It’s interesting that there were no FAQs about the strong language in the regulations regarding Coast Guard oversight of the TPOs and vessels under the TSMS option.

I like to warn clients to beware of the sales pitch. I guess sales pitches come from all angles these days.

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  • Guest
    Javier Figueroa Friday, September 30 2016

    Based on that last FAQ and most of the articles around coming from other sources it feels just like that. Any company using the CG option will be having problems just scheduling visits from the CG.
    Good read as always Kevin! Hope to see more about Sub M coming from you.

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Guest Friday, November 24 2017

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