July 20, 2018 was a critical date for tow boat operators. That was the deadline for all U.S.-flag towing vessels – over 26 feet, or less if used to assist with transport of oil or hazardous materials – to be in compliance with Subchapter M, the U.S. Coast Guard’s towing vessel safety regulations. It’s been a long time coming. As a regulatory program, the CG finalized Sub M in July 2016, setting a two-year implementation time-line.
As most towing operators know, Sub M is an expansive and dynamic program pertaining to vessel safety and safe operations. Central to Sub M is the Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection (COI), the document recognizing and formalizing Sub M compliance and, most critically, permitting the vessel to legally operate for five years, when it must be inspected again.