The wide variety of ATB designs would not allow for a generic procedure for emergency towing.
However, I can answer for the ATB I presently serve on.
I’ll attempt to answer your questions and fill in some blanks.
[B]How are the towing connections being made?
Is your ATB ready to tow upon breakout?
Do you have a pick up line to stream? Are you connected to an intermediate hawser/wire as soon as you leave the dock?
Is your emergency hawser on the tug, or the barge? [/B]
Generally, we are ready to tow at any given time. However, geographic location is the controlling factor.
Breaking out to tow is an open water issue, the routes we find ourselves transiting may or may not have the sea-room to breakout and tow.
The emergency hawser is stored on the tug’s fantail, there is no stern station on the O1 deck.
The hawser is not always shackled up, the pickup line can be streamed. Upon embarking on a long open water transit, the emerg hawser, towing strap and retrieval line would be set and shackled.
Nothing more than pulling the pins and backing away need be done in the case of an emergency. The barge’s umbilical would be sacrificed if necessary without issue.
Their would be no need for anyone on the fantail should emergency breakout become necessary.
Should it become necessary “in extremis” to release the tow, the towing strap can be severed with the swipe of an axe.
Additionally, this is a “hold and wait for help” scenario. We would do what’s necessary to hang on to the barge, but making way in heavy weather would be problematic. We would do what is practicable, practical and safe.
The company policy is a general outline giving the Master the overall authority to do what’s necessary. We have 3 different kinds of ATB’s in the fleet, the emergency towing setups are similar, but not identical.
[B]Is there a need to have USCG regulations for these issues?
Should there be uniformity nationwide? Is this necessary?[/B]
The USCG has no expertise in this area. They should be bringing out T/V inspection regs soon, I doubt they’ll be earth shattering.
Uniformity is a pipe-dream. There are too many different configurations to impose one standard on anything. Procedures for emergency preparedness should focus on having the gear necessary to facilitate an emergency tow given the kind of work and geographic area where the vessel is working. There’s not a whole lot of need for a 1,200’ hawser on a riverbound ATB. Leave the means with which this is approached, up to the master.
[B]“Are YOU safe on an ATB when out of the notch at sea in heavy weather?”[/B]
According to the ABS stability letter my vessel carries, yes. Will I be comfortable, no.
[B]Should there be an emergency lower helm station (as opposed to being up on the top of a 50’ pendulum) so the operator isn’t being thrown around getting injured?[/B]
Yes, but there isn’t any "legal requirement " for it to be installed. It would be at the discretion of the owner.
[B]Is the crew going to be able to hook up a previously unconnected pennant in heavy seas? After several years, what crew member will have the requisite experience to do this from afar, while the operator is 50’ away up in a upper wheelhouse while getting thrashed manuvering the tug to get on the wire?
The setup would not wait for heavy seas to develop. It’s foolish and unprofessional to wait until the last minute to hook up emergency gear. As I mentioned before, an extended open water transit would see the emerg hawser set dockside prior to sail.
Their would be more than one handheld radio being used when and if the situation demanded an emergency deployment. Mainly for the head count and status of the gear as it goes over the side.
[B]We have all seen the ‘neat’, impressive pics of the back deck awash. Is it reasonable to expect to be able to hook up tow back there when conditions are the worst?
Decks awash is nothing new in tugboating. I’ve been up to my waist in water recovering a barge that parted its shockline a few times. Not every tug is blessed with a dry fantail. PFDs and a good handhold. The deck is awash due to the fact the barge is controlling how the tug rides. The tug will be much “livelier” once its out of the notch. Setting hawser with a vantage point 50’ above would be a daunting task and is generally avoided with prior planning…
The issue with the passing of time dulling the skills of the deck gang, or the inability to train (realistically) for the eventuality of a breakout is an issue we’ll be facing due to the attrition of the older conventional towing masters that are now in command of the new ATB setups.
The emergency breakout is a tabletop drill, you can only do so much up to the actual pulling the clips on the emergency wire.
Further, the manufacturer of the connecting system recommends against breaking out in heavy seas. The system can fail hydraulically, pneumatically and electrically and still be locked in. I wouldn’t breakout unless I had a complete and catastrophic failure of the system. This would mean that the “helmuts” have shattered and the tug is at risk of being holed.
The nature of your question is general for the most part. If I can provide a more detailed answer, drop me a line. Like I said, this is what I do, I’d be interested to hear the procedures used by others.