1. General

1.1 Foreword

1.1.1 The purpose of this document is to provide a convenient, cohesive reference document to the various legislative and regulatory requirements and standards in Canada that apply to tugs of less than 24 metres in length.  These Guidelines have been developed not only to facilitate and simplify the tasks of the designers, builders, owners, operators, and inspectors of tugs, but ultimately to support the safety and protection of persons working aboard Canadian tugs and to protect the environment.

1.1.2 It must be noted that by virtue of the less than 24 metres in length limitation, these Guidelines specifically do not relate to any tug which is:

  • Greater than 500 gross tonnage (GT) and undertaking international voyages and hence subject to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, except when operating solely on the Great Lakes of North America and the River St Lawrence.
  • Of 24 metres in length and above and hence subject to the requirements of either the Canadian or International Load Line regulations.

1.1.3 The operators of tugs need to pay special attention to the intended operations and operating areas (including environmental factors and voyage considerations) when selecting the design most appropriate to the application, and designers and builders must specify and select materials and equipment for construction which are most appropriate to the intended service of the vessel.  Not all of these matters can be covered by regulation or by published standards, and therefore the counsel of persons well-qualified and experienced in tug design, construction and operations should be sought for each new vessel application.

1.1.4 The designer, builder, owner and operator must always refer to the most recent version of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA 2001) and regulations made thereunder, as these Guidelines do not replace the legal requirements and may not capture recent changes made to the various regulations and/or standards. Canadian statutes and regulations prevail in the case of conflict with these Guidelines.

1.1.5 The final authority for any section of these Guidelines is the latest relevant regulation, which must be consulted prior to any undertaking.  A list of regulations and standards referred to in these Guidelines is provided in Section 1.3. This list, although comprehensive, may not capture every possible reference. The reader should therefore consult the following Transport Canada websites for a complete listing of all the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 Regulations and Transport Canada (TC) Standards:

1.1.6 These Guidelines also direct the reader to the following relevant statutes:

1.1.7 Many sections of these Guidelines also contain a heading “Additional Guidance”. The application of the information under this heading is not mandatory but is provided as it is considered to address some additional safety concerns and also represent industry best practices.

1.2 Application

1.2.1 These Guidelines address only new tugs of less than 24 metres in length, and existing tugs of less than 150 gross tonnage, unless otherwise specified. However for clarity in understanding the various regulatory boundaries there are references included herein to some specific regulations which also apply to tugs of 24 metres in length and above.

1.2.2 When applying the Regulations and Standards to existing tugs, the date of application should be verified in every Regulation. Some provisions may be applicable retroactively to all vessels, while others may only be applicable to vessels constructed after a certain date as defined in the Regulation or standard under consideration.

1.2.3 When applying the Regulations and Standards referred in these guidelines, the local Transport Canada Centre may be contacted for clarification on application or interpretation.

1.2.4 If technical advice is required owners and operators should contact a marine consultant with expertise regarding tugs and the Canadian regulatory regime.

1.3 Regulations Referenced

1.3.1 Principal Regulations and Standards The following regulations and standards should be consulted for their direct applicability to tugs. The requirements of these documents are applicable in large part to tugs, with the application usually determined by the gross tonnage of the tug:

  • Canada Shipping Act, 2001
  • Collision Regulations
  • Fire and Boat Drills Regulations
  • Fire Detection and Extinguishing Equipment Regulations
  • Hull Construction Regulations:
    • Part VII for all tugs, except as indicated by Section 79
    • Part VIII for all tugs > 5 GT
  • Hull Inspection Regulations
  • Life Saving Equipment Regulations
  • Marine Machinery Regulations
  • Marine Personnel Regulations
  • Navigation Safety Regulations
  • Safe Working Practices Regulations
  • Ship Station (Radio) Regulations
  • Small Vessel Regulations
  • Towboat Crew Accommodation Regulations
  • Vessel Certificates Regulations
  • Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations
  • Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations
  • Transport Canada Marine Safety – Technical Publications (TP):
    • TP127 Ships Electrical Standards
    • TP3685 Standards Respecting Noise Control and Hearing Protection in Canadian Towboats Over 15 Tons, Gross Tonnage
    • TP7301 Stability, Subdivision, and Load Line Standards (STAB 3)
    • TP13430 Standard for the Tonnage Measurement of Vessels

1.3.2 Additional Regulations, Standards and Guidelines In addition to the principal regulations and standards listed in Section 1.3.1, the following regulations and standards are referred to in these Guidelines for their applicability to tugs. These documents contain provisions that may be applicable to certain tugs, with the application being determined by the features of the tug or its operation. Some of these documents also contain requirements related to the equipment used on tugs. These requirements are often addressed to the equipment manufacturer; however some are also addressed to the owner and operators. Other documents provide guidance to the owner and operators:

  • Anchorage Regulations
  • Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations
  • Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations
  • Ship Station (Radio) Technical Regulations
  • VHF Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations
  • Transport Canada Technical Publications:
    • TP1861 Standards for Navigation Lights, Shapes, Sound Signal Appliances and Radar Reflectors
    • TP3231 Ship Safety Bulletins, towing and tug specific:
      • 06/1980  Interpretation of Rule 3(g)(vi) of the Collision Regulations
      • 06/1981 Recommendations to be applied to every tug which is employed in towing vessels on a long line astern
      • 06/1983 Tugs engaged in towing vessels on a long line astern
      • 18/1988 West Coast Winders - Operational Safety
      • 01/1994 EPIRBs and EPIBs on Tugs
      • 13/1994 Towboats - Dangers Associated with Girding
  • Other Ship Safety Bulletins may contain general safety information (e.g. stability, watertight integrity, lifesaving, crewing, etc.) that could also be applicable to tugs.
  • TP3668 Standards for Navigating Appliances and Equipment
  • TP9878 Safety and Distress Radiotelephone Procedures
  • TP11960 Standards and Guidelines for the Construction, Inspection and Operation of Barges that Carry Oil in Bulk (identifies types of tugs and required performance of tugs to be deemed suitable for oil barge towing service)
  • TP13617 A Guide to Canada's Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations
  • TP14070 Small Commercial Vessel Safety Guide
  • TP14475 Canadian Life Saving Appliance Standard

1.3.3 These regulations, standards and guidelines are available in their entirety online from:

1.3.4 Other Relevant Documents Other relevant local, national and international documents listed below could also be consulted although not all of these apply to vessels of less than 24 metres in length which are the subject of these Guidelines. International Maritime Organization (IMO):

  • IMO Guidelines for Safe Ocean Towing MSC/Circ. 884
  • IMO Resolution MSC.346(91) Application of SOLAS Regulation III/17-1 to ships to which SOLAS Chapter III does not apply
  • IMO MSC.1/Circ.1447 Guidelines for the development of plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water Other National Administration:

  • Australian Transport Council National Standard for Commercial Vessels - Part C Design And Construction  - Section 6 Stability - Subsection 6A Intact Stability Requirements – Annexes E & F Standards Development Organizations

  • ISO 7547:2002 – Air conditioning and ventilation of accommodations spaces – Design conditions and basis of calculations
  • ISO 8862:1987 – Air conditioning and ventilation of machinery control-rooms – Design conditions and basis of calculations
  • ISO 8864:1987 – Air conditioning and ventilation of wheelhouse on board ships – Design conditions and basis of calculations
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 26-2010 - Mechanical Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Installations Aboard Ship
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 151-2010 - Practices for Measuring, Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Shipboard HVAC&R Systems
  • ISO 12215-5:2008 - Design pressures for monohulls, design stresses, scantlings determination (for vessels on sheltered water voyages) Industry documents

  • GL-Noble Denton: - Guidelines for the Approval of Towing Vessels 0021/ND
  • GL Noble Denton: - Guidelines for Marine Transportation, 0030/ND Finally, consultation with the Rules of a Classification Society is strongly advisable for the design and construction of tugs, as these rules are thorough and comprehensive and reflect generally the best modern practices.  Information on the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) and its member companies can be found at: http://www.iacs.org.uk/

1.4 Interpretation

1.4.1 Definitions from the Act and regulations:

  • "Act" means the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
  • "Authorized Representative" is defined in section 14 of the Act. To summarize, it is the person who is responsible under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 for acting with respect to all matters relating to the vessel that are not otherwise assigned by this Act to any other person. The authorized representative of a Canadian vessel is generally the owner of the vessel. Where a foreign vessel is brought into Canadian registry under a bare-boat charter, the authorized representative is the bare-boat charterer. If more than one person owns a vessel, the owners must appoint one of themselves as the authorized representative. If the owner is a corporation, the authorized representative is the corporation. In these guidelines, “owner” means “authorized representative”.
  • "Length" means for the applicability of this standard the length as defined in section 6 of the Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations. This length, commonly called the “Registered Length”, is shown on the Certificate of Registry. When applying various regulations, the length as defined in the regulations under consideration is applicable.
  • "MTRB" means the Marine Technical Review Board, established by section 26 of the Act.

    Note that regulations made before the coming into force of the Canada Shipping Act 2001, define the Board as the Board of Steamship Inspection, which is the previous name for the Marine Technical Review Board (MTRB). Where a regulation refers to the Board of Steamship Inspection for exemption or equivalency, it should be interpreted to mean the MTRB. When a regulation refers to the Board for inspection or approval it should be interpreted as meaning the Minister of Transport.

  • "Tow" or “Towing” means:
    • In the context of the Small Vessel Regulations: “except for the purposes of Part 10, means the action of pulling a vessel or an object astern or alongside, or pushing a vessel or an object ahead, but does not include pulling or pushing, in the course of the vessel’s normal operations, a floating object or vessel that has a significantly smaller displacement than the vessel’s displacement”.
    • In the context of the Towboat Crew Accommodations Regulations: “to pull or push any floating object”.
  • "Tug" or "Towboat" means
    • In the context of the Life Saving Equipment Regulations, Marine Personnel Regulations, Navigation Safety Regulations, Ship Station (Radio) Regulations, 1999, and Ship Station (Radio) Technical Regulations, 1999 : “a vessel used exclusively in operations associated with towing another vessel or a floating object astern or alongside or in pushing another vessel or a floating object ahead”.
    • In the context of the Small Vessel Regulations: “a vessel that is constructed or converted primarily for the purpose of towing, but does not include a vessel that is constructed or converted for the purpose of

      • (a) salvaging logs; or
      • (b) managing oil pollution booms and associated equipment”.
  • "Watertight", in relation to a structure, means the structure is capable of preventing the passage of water through it in any direction, under a head of water up to the vessel’s margin line.

1.4.2 Additional definitions used for these Guidelines:

  • "Attended Vessel" means the barge or ship to which a tug is providing towing or assistance operations.
  • "Azimuthing Propulsion" means a device capable of directing thrust through 360° for the propulsion and steering of a vessel.
  • "Escort" or "Escorting" means the use of tugs, readily available, to apply emergency steering or braking forces to an attended vessel at speeds in excess of 6 knots in confined channels or similar restricted spaces (a function distinct and separate from "Ship-Assist").
  • "Classification Society" (also sometimes referred to as "Class") means a ship Classification Society that publishes its own classification Rules (including technical requirements) in relation to the design, construction and survey of ships, and has the capacity to apply, maintain and update those Rules. For more information on major Classification Societies refer to http://www.iacs.org/ .
  • "Local Transport Canada Centre" means the Local Transport Canada Centre in the region in which the tug will operate. For contact details refer to the following website: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/regions.htm.
  • "Rules" means rules, codes and guides issued by a Classification Society and related to the construction, installation, and inspection of marine hulls and machinery.
  • "Ship-Assist" refers specifically to the role of tugs in the act of berthing or unberthing large vessels in port, whether directly connected to the attended vessel by a towline or not.

1.5 Additional Guidance

1.5.1 Although the existing regulations and standards apply to all tugs regardless of their size, power or voyage, the fact is that the term "tug" describes a very wide array of diverse craft which are often engaged in vastly different duties, each of which carries its own attendant degree of risk. The guidelines have attempted to identify where specific regulatory requirements are most important to any one of these particular tug services (e.g. ship-assist as opposed to towing a vessel or a floating object).

1.5.2 The current Canadian regulations applicable to tugs have often been overtaken by the technologies in the towing industry which have evolved since the early-mid 1970s, and in particular by the dominance of azimuthing propulsion as the preferred propulsion system in tugs. The reader is therefore strongly encouraged to look at sources such as Classification Society Rules in order to ensure that any new Canadian vessel reflects the lessons learned internationally regarding the safe construction and operation of such vessels.

1.5.3 There are no internationally recognized guidelines governing the relationships between the size and power of a tug and the size or type of its tow. Various documents are worthy of review however, if only to verify at least on an empirical basis that the tug-tow relationship is reasonable and appropriate. Although some of these documents relate to much larger vessels and longer (ocean) tows, they provide useful background nonetheless. References are to the latest version of these documents:

  • TP 11960 – Standards and Guidelines for the Construction, Inspection and Operation of Barges that Carry Oil in Bulk (1995), Appendix A
  • International Maritime Organization, Guidelines for Safe Ocean Towing MSC/Circ. 884
  • GL-Noble Denton: - Guidelines for the Approval of Towing Vessels 0021/ND
  • GL Noble Denton: - Guidelines for Marine Transportations, 0030/ND

1.5.4 The above guidelines from international sources are available from: