Report shows towing vessel fatalities up in 2016

The following is an excerpt of a report from the U.S. Coast Guard and American Waterways Operators:

(WASHINGTON) — For 17 years, the National Quality Steering Committee has used three measures to track overall trends in safety and environmental protection. While not all-encompassing, the measures are considered useful indicators of towing industry trends. The measures are:

• Crew fatalities per 100,000 towing industry workers.
• Gallons of oil spilled from tank barges per million gallons transported.
• The number of towing vessel casualties (overall and by incident severity).

In 2016, there were eight operational towing vessel crew fatalities. While 15 deaths were reported to the Coast Guard aboard towing vessels in 2016, only eight were directly related to towing vessel operations. The other seven deaths were due to existing medical conditions (five) and accidental overdose (two).

Of the eight crew fatalities, one casualty accounted for three deaths. In this case, a towing vessel allided with a spudded barge at a bridge construction site and sank (the tugboat Specialist on the Hudson River). After vessel salvage and investigation it was determined one crewman was crushed below deck upon impact and two others drowned after the vessel sank.

In separate incidents, three crewmembers were crushed between objects (one fell between a tug and barge, one fell between two barges, and another was caught between the rake of one barge and another when mooring into a fleeting area). Two other crewmen died as a result of falling into the water (one fell while working on a fleeting area barge and another fell or jumped into the water attempting to escape from a capsizing towing vessel).

(Editor's note: There were six crew fatalities in 2015, four in 2014, seven in 2013, six in 2012, and nine in 2011.)

Click here to view the complete report.

By Professional Mariner Staff