A U.S. Coast Guard panel comprised of Cdr. Rob Smith, Lt. Cdrs. Patrick Lee and Wade Russell and Mr. Patrick Mannion, provided updates on the proposed rules for towing vessel inspections to the attendees at the International Workboat Show in New Orleans November 30.  Because timing is everything, the panel indicated that it did not anticipate any extension of the public comment period, which as previously discussed, ends on December 9, 2011.  The panel explained that proposed regulations were promulgated in response to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004, and had been the subject of four public hearings.  Under those circumstances the panel did not believe an extension of the public comment would be forthcoming.

Accordingly, if you have any questions, concerns or comments about the proposed regulations, you need to submit them in very short order.  Internet comments can be submitted to the following link:  www.regulations.gov and by inserting “USCG–2006–24412″ in the box marked “Keyword” or “ID.”

The panel stated that once public comment period ends, it will consider and respond to each comment on the proposed regulations prior to issuing a final rule.  The Coast Guard is not obligated to consider or to respond to any comment received after December 9, 2011.  There was no timeline provided as to when owners and operators could expect publication of the final rule.

The proposed regulations will affect an estimated 5,200 towing vessels (including towboats and tugboats) engaged in service on the inland rivers, the Great Lakes, coasts and oceans.  Of that number of vessels, approximately 4,000 operate within Coast Guard District 8, headquartered in New Orleans.