TSMS Certification and Audits

We review and issue Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) certificates.

The TSMS Option and Alternatives 

Towing vessel operators wishing to take advantage of the ‘TSMS Option’ will need to create a Towing TSMS and have the system approved by a TPO.  The elements which must be covered within a TSMS are outlined in Part 138 of Subchapter M.  Note, however, the USCG does not explicitly state all the elements which need to be in an effective TSMS – Part 138 outlines the TSMS to the extent which the TPO would audit the towing vessel operator to determine compliance.

Not every operator will need a TSMS – to determine if the ‘TSMS Option’ is right for your organization, you need to consider the operation you are running currently. For there are other ways to obtain the coveted Certificate of Inspection (COI) for your towing vessel.

Consult with EDT on the TSMS Option

USCG Option 

The most direct way would be to forego the ‘TSMS Option’ and apply for the ‘USCG Option’ – that is, have the USCG Office(r) in Charge of Marine Inspections (OCMI) come out and inspect the vessel directly. This is the easiest option in terms of planning – all the operator has to do is request the inspection with enough advance notice the local OCMI can come to the vessel for the inspection. No preparation of management systems would be required, and you will have your COI in short order – if everything is satisfactory to the OCMI. This may be the best choice for small operators; if your operation has a few towing vessels, you could probably arrange for the inspections without disruption to your schedule.

Approved International Safe Management (ISM) System

Some operations may be able to take advantage of another solution of the TSMS – having an ISM system and certificates.  Section 138.225 allows operators with existing Safety Management Systems (SMS) to apply for consideration of the existing system as meeting the objectives of a TSMS.  ISM Code SMS with additional elements covering the operational requirements of Parts 140 through 144 are considered to be equivalent to a TSMS.  Other SMS, such as the Responsible Carrier Program (RCP) of the American Waterways Operators, may also be accepted by a TPO as equivalent, as long as the requirements of Part 138 and Parts 140 through 144 are met.  USCG Policy letter 17-02 further expanded on the intent of this section, defining how an existing ISM Code SMS or RCP SMS could be accepted by a TPO.

TSMS Option and Working with EDT 

Operators which do not have an existing SMS or who may not be able to work within the limited resources of the local OCMI should consider creating a TSMS and working with an approved TPO to certify their TSMS.  EDT will be happy to discuss your company’s operations and suggest a consultant to assist in creating your TSMS.  EDT cannot be both your TPO and assist in creating your TSMS; that is expressly outside our charter as a TPO.  However, we can discuss the elements of the TSMS with you prior to review of your TSMS, so your organization fully understands what elements need to be in a TSMS and how the audit process works.

Five Steps for TSMS Approval

  1. Your organization needs to create a TSMS or modify your existing SMS to accurately reflect how the organization is meeting the operational and physical requirements of Subchapter M.
  2. Next, your organization needs to set up the monitoring metrics to track compliance, testing, and training.  Then, you need to implement your TSMS.  After you have implemented the procedures outlined in your TSMS both in your company office and onboard your towing vessels, you are ready to conduct your own internal audit of compliance.
  3. After that, your TPO should review the TSMS documentation to verify the TSMS addresses the elements of Part 138 – including requirements spelled out in detail in Parts 140 through 144 – of Subchapter M.
  4. If the TSMS documentation is found to substantially comply with Part 138, then an audit of the company’s office(s) can be arranged with the TPO.  In many instances, this can be concurrent with the review of the TSMS documentation.
  5. Finally, a shipboard audit of one towing vessel needs to be arranged and attended by the TPO.

After the audits are complete, a TSMS Certificate with be issued to your company, outlining the offices and vessels which are controlled under the TSMS.  The TSMS Certificate has a validity of five years.

Ongoing Audits 

To maintain your TSMS Certificate, your TPO will audit your organization’s office(s) twice in five years – an intermediate audit at about 30 months to verify continued compliance and a renewal audit after 5 years. Your TPO will also randomly audit towing vessels in your fleet, on a rotating schedule so that each towing vessel with a COI has a shipboard audit at least once in every 5 year period. The operator is responsible for making vessels available to the auditor, though the schedule of the audit may be arranged at the convenience of the operator and crew.