NTSB Chief Backs Towing SMS Rule

Deborah Hersman says the Coast Guard's rule to require safety management systems for towing operations is "an important step to improve safety."

The U.S. Coast Guard's new rule that will require towing operations to implement safety management systems is an important step to increase that industry's safety, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman wrote in an Aug. 15 post on her blog at the NTSB website.

"This summer has seen record temperatures throughout the nation," she wrote. "I know that during the hottest July on record in Washington, D.C., we really appreciated our air conditioning. Of course, air conditioning requires electricity, which depends on coal among other power sources. Did you know that the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry transports one-fifth of America's coal on our nation's inland waterways and coasts?

"One way to make sure that coal —- as well as the thousands of other products carried on commercial vessels -— get to their destinations safely is for the waterways operators to operate under a safety management system (SMS). The NTSB believes in the power of an SMS, when developed well and used to its full potential, to identify problems in all modes of commercial transportation before they lead to tragedies that take lives and interrupt commerce. That's why the NTSB placed SMS on its Most Wanted List in June.

"Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard published proposed safety regulations to establish SMS standards for the industry. This is an important step to improve safety. Further, through the leadership of the American Waterways Operators, the towing industry has encouraged the development of, and yesterday announced their support for, this important initiative to improve safety. Congratulations to the U.S. Coast Guard and the AWO for this important step to improve safety on our nation's waterways."

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