US Coast Guard Grants Appeal


The US Coast Guard, Office of the Commandant, upheld an appeal requested by the marine assistance operators of the South Florida area.  Lead by Capt. Larry Acheson, owner of TowBoatU.S. Ft. Lauderdale, the appeal requested an exemption for the marine assistance industry from the Master of Towing licensing regulations.  The local group with support from C-PORT, Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing, asked for reconsideration to allow the marine assistance industry to operate under their current licenses providing towing and assistance to yachts and other vessels that may be fully operational yet need assistance.  Examples of these services include repossessions, maintenance, and yacht assistance.  Many in the assistance towing industry are finding that work they routinely perform and have routinely performed for decades is now being classified as being part of the towing and barge industry and falling under the Master of Towing manning regulations,” stated Tina Cardone, C-PORT Executive Director. On January 20, 2010, Capt. Eric Christensen, Chief, Office of Vessel Activities USCG, under the direction of the Commandant, signed the Response to Appeal partially granting the appeal. 


Assistance towing is defined in the regulations as towing a disabled vessel for consideration.  The Master of Towing regulations further defined "disabled" causing some Coast Guard Districts to interpret routine operations by the assistance towing industry as needing a Master of Towing credential to perform.  The hardship this would have created for the assistance towing industry was detrimental. The appeal states that the “key element is that the vessel needs assistance of some kind”.  By direction, the Coast Guard interprets “needs assistance” to include not only those vessels who lost power while underway but also those vessels needing aid to complete a maneuver or to transit safely, towing a vessel from one moored location to another and repossessions.  “Needs assistance” includes situations where the vessel safety is at risk such as mechanical difficulty, weather conditions, port/waterway congestion, or vessel maneuvering constraints.  The directive is clear to state these types of assistance are to be brief in nature and be conducted within a port area.  

The request to be exempt from Master of Towing licensing requirement was denied.  The Coast Guard is legally not able to grant such an exemption.  "One word change in a regulation can unintentionally cause disastrous consequences," Cardone reflects.  "C-PORT will continue to monitor these Coast Guard regulation revisions to try to prevent this type of situation from happening."

C-PORT was founded in 1985 to act as a liaison between the marine assistance industry and public agencies and organizations involved with boating safety, marine assistance, marine salvage and other marine-related operations.  The association was created in part to afford a means of cooperation with the government in matters of national concern; to provide an objective, self-regulating body for the marine assistance industry; to promote, through legislative, regulatory, and governmental initiatives, the maintenance and expansion of the marine assistance industry.  For more information, contact C-PORT at 954-261-2012 or visit our website at www.cport.us.











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