In September 2017, Mobile, Alabama-based Ivy Marine made headlines when it became one of the first operators in the US to receive a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) certification as required under the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) new Subchapter M (Sub M) regulations.

The announcement shocked the industry. The two-boat, family-run tug and barge operator had jumped ahead of many larger and more well-known operators to become, not just one of the first, but also the smallest operator to gain TSMS certification to date.

The secret to that success? Ivy Marine’s work with Tug & Barge Solutions (TBS)—a Helm Operations partner and one of the industry’s leading Sub M and safety management consultants—and their use of Helm CONNECT to manage their day-to-day vessel operations.

To prepare for the daunting new Sub M regulations, Ivy Marine worked closely with TBS to develop a custom TSMS and implement it across their fleet using Helm CONNECT.

Ivy Marine’s TSMS is built using Helm CONNECT, which has become an essential tool for the business since Ivy first implemented it in 2016. “Before Helm CONNECT, we used a paper-based system for all of our required forms and reports on the boats. Helm CONNECT allowed us to increase efficiency across the business, streamlining functions like compliance, inventory management and preventive maintenance. An added benefit that was crucial to our success was the user-friendly interface that has made it easy for our crews to adapt to a paperless system,” said Patrick Boles, Ivy Marine’s CFO.

These comments were echoed by TBS’s Vice President, Pat Folan, who helped implement Ivy Marine’s TSMS using Helm CONNECT, and who observed the company’s audit by approved Third Party Organization (TPO), Marine Compliance (MARCOM), and the US Coast Guard. “Helm CONNECT was a critical factor in their achieving certification,” said Pat. “We started the audit showing them the paper records we had from before we started using Helm CONNECT, and then switched to showing them the records in Helm CONNECT which we’d been using with Ivy for about a year. The difference was amazing.”

Listen to Pat Folan describe his experience with Helm during the audit process

“We were able to show them everything they needed in terms of records almost instantaneously using Helm CONNECT. It made the process so much faster and more effective, we were able to not only prove all of the audit requirements for certification, but we also finished a whole day earlier than planned.”

According to Pat, the MARCOM auditors weren’t the only ones impressed. “The USCG staff who attended the audit told us that our small towing company actually had a better system than many of the ocean-going vessels that call in Mobile,” he said. “Helm CONNECT is a central part of that.”


Ashley Dueck
Marketing Manager