TSB cites emergency tow release in fatality aboard tug

The following is the text of a news release from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada:

(DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia) — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released its investigation report (M13N0014) into the capsizing of tow and accidental death aboard the tug Western Tugger as it towed the barge Arctic Lift I, 33 nautical miles southwest of Burgeo, Newfoundland and Labrador. The report identified minimal clearance above the water (freeboard), bad weather conditions, and a non-functional emergency tow release as factors in the accident. One member of the crew of the Western Tugger was killed while trying to release the barge from tow.

On May 10, 2013, the Arctic Lift I developed a large list while being towed by the Western Tugger. The list may have been the result of several factors: water shipped on deck; down-flooding through hatches that were not adequately sealed; possible damage to the barge en route resulting in water ingress; or because unsecured cargo had shifted, affecting the barge’s stability. As a precaution, the master wanted to be able to release the barge in case it sank. Although the vessel had an emergency tow release, it was not functional due to a secondary brake. The master directed a deck hand to the winch room to loosen the secondary brake, which had been added to the winch to assist the main brake. Moments later, the forward end of the barge rose out of the water and the barge capsized. The resulting strain on the secondary brake drum caused it to shatter, and parts of it hit and fatally injured the deck hand.

The investigation found a number of safety issues at play during the tow: an emergency tow release that was not capable of being operated immediately; hatches that were not reliably watertight; a minimal freeboard; and cargo that was unsecured. The investigation also found that although a safety management system was under development, it had not been implemented prior to the occurrence.

By Professional Mariner Staff