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Business 327 views Jun 27, 2020
Subchapter M growing pains

 

Subchapter M took nearly 10 years to come into force and become regulation. The need for better control of inland water vessels was recognized years ago but only as the number of casualties grew did the pressure for regulating this industry grew. The Maritime industry globally, whether blue-water or ocean-going vessels of inland water operators, is reactive in nature. For why an owner expense extra money when everything is working well and ‘nothin’ ain’t broke’.

It was the same case with the ISM code when it first came into effect. It even took a few major casualties to draw attention for the need of a process-based safety management system abord ships. At first, as with Subchapter M, it was met with a lot of resistance from industry. It was viewed as bureaucratic red tape that just slowed down operations, a system for apportioning blame on individuals based on the records kept, a method for operators ashore to micro-manage vessel operations. Perhaps in those initial years, in poorly implemented management systems, it was all these and more.

Subchapter M is slowly being phased in across the United States with all companies needed to have 50% of their fleet with a USCG Certificate of Inspection (COI) by July 2020. There are costs associated with the associated check and inspections that are viewed as an added burden by tug operators. The cost of safety/quality has not been weighed yet. Only time will deliver the data needed to show how a well implemented system will benefit all stakeholders in the long run.

While there is a certain amount of compliance associated with Subchapter M, the intent of the regulation is to improve vessel safety for vessels operating in U.S. inland waters. The regulations are intended to build a pro-active culture of safety rather than a reactive one. The old adage “A fools learns from his own mistakes, a wise man from other’s” comes to mind. Subchapter M regulations have been defined keeping in mind best practices and lessons learned from accidents/incidents over the years.

The inland maritime industry has a while to go before a culture of safety becomes second nature, where data will enable evidence-based decision making and improvement. Where non-conformities will be embraced, and risks identified to prevent non-conformities before they occur. The system will be proactive in ensuring not only the safety of the vessel and the cargo but also the safety of the crew, the marine environment, other vessels/leisure craft and the surrounding communities.

 


Tags: #Subchapter M