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USCG Eases Firefighting Training Requirements for Towboats

October 26, 2023

© Bonita / Adobe Stock

© Bonita / Adobe Stock

The U.S. Coast Guard has moved to ease firefighting training requirements for towing vessels operating on America's inland waterways.

The agency this week issued a final rule revising the training requirements for national Merchant Mariner Credential endorsements as master of towing vessels (limited) or mate (pilot) of towing vessels on inland and western rivers routes, excluding the Great Lakes.

Consistent with recommendations from the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (NMERPAC) and the National Towing Safety Advisory Committee (NTSAC), this rule gives mariners seeking these endorsements the option of taking a modified basic firefighting course that excludes training on equipment not required to be carried on towing vessels operating on inland waters or the western rivers.

The modified basic firefighting course is limited to towing vessel endorsements for western rivers and inland waters other than the Great Lakes. Mariners seeking towing vessel endorsements for other routes must complete a basic firefighting course.

The Coast Guard said it is delaying the effective date of this rule until April 1, 2024, allowing time for training providers to develop—and for the Coast Guard to evaluate and approve—modified basic firefighting courses.

“While the Coast Guard didn’t go as far as we advocated for in providing flexibility to mariners and operators while upholding safety, we welcome the Coast Guard’s understanding that the current training course requirements are overly burdensome,” a spokesperson from The American Waterways Operators (AWO) told MarineLink. “We’ll now work with our members to ensure Coast Guard approvals of operator and training provider courses occur in a timely manner so mariners have wide access to the modified basic firefighting course beginning in April 2024.”

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