2/26/2018: Interim rule – Harmonization of Standards for Fire Protection, Detection, and Extinguishing Equipment

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The Coast Guard announced in the Federal Register that it is issuing an interim final rule to apply changes made by the 2016 final rule, Harmonization of Standards for Fire Protection, Detection, and Extinguishing Equipment, to inspected towing vessels. Applying these updated fire protection requirements to inspected towing vessels will align regulations for inspected towing vessels with other commercial vessel regulations.

This interim final rule is effective March 28, 2018. Comments and related material must be submitted to the online docket using docket number USCG-2017-1060 on or before March 28, 2018.


Under existing regulations, towing vessels must carry Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers. Historically, the labels on all Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers displayed two ratings: A performance rating determined by testing to the industry consensus standard UL 711, and a USCG Type/Size rating based on type of fire and the quantity of extinguishing agent. In its Fire Protection rule, the Coast Guard eliminated the USCG Type/Size rating requirement from 46 CFR part 162 in favor of the UL standard, but the fire protection regulations in 46 CFR subchapter M are still framed in terms of USCG Type/Size rating. This rule will change those provisions in part 142 of subchapter M to reflect the UL standard instead, matching the changes made by the Fire Protection rule.

This rule does not change the number of extinguishers required, and an extinguisher that displays the USCG Type/Size rating may still be used if it meets all other requirements. This rule adds a grandfathering clause in section 142.231(a), identical to one that appears in 46 CFR 25.30-80 as a result of the Fire Protection rule, in order to avoid any new obligation on uninspected vessels that become inspected and subject to Subchapter M.

In addition, this rule revises maintenance requirements for fire extinguishers. Subchapter M had required extinguisher maintenance in accordance with the industry consensus standard NFPA 10, which requires certified personnel to conduct annual fire extinguishing equipment maintenance. NFPA 10 also requires monthly visual inspections and documentation by certified personnel. Section 142.240 provides for some departures from NFPA 10 to: Allow for the acceptance of state and local licenses for inspections; allow an owner, operator, or qualified crewmember to complete monthly inspections (as opposed to certified personnel); and reduce the requirements of the annual inspection for non-rechargeable extinguishers. These modifications are consistent with those put into place for other commercial vessels, including uninspected towing vessels, by the Fire Protection rule. Section 142.240(a) also imports a provision from the Fire Protection rule requiring that if the marine inspector or third-party organization finds that equipment or records are not properly maintained, then a qualified servicing facility must perform the required activities. This provision is less stringent than the NFPA 10 provision in the original subchapter M text.

Finally, this rule makes non-substantive changes such as replacing the term “hand-portable” with “portable.” It also updates the edition of NFPA 10 from 2007 to the 2010 edition used in the Fire Protection rule; there are no substantive changes between these two editions.

To view the complete Interim Rule, visit the Federal Register.

For information about this notice, call or email Lt. Alexandra Miller, Office of Design and Engineering Standards, Lifesaving and Fire Safety Division (CG-ENG-4), at 202-372-1356, or Alexandra.S.Miller@uscg.mil.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.



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