An ATB is NOT a Tugboat. It is two distinct and separate pieces of equipment used to transport Cargo. As the ATB Boom began, guys who were tired of getting their asses beaten up on wire and hawser boats started making the switch. Years of actual TOWING and BOAT HANDLING experience came with these people. This was from years of dropping a barge, grabbing another and doing it all over again. And you Prayed for an outside trip for a break. An ATB job was given to the cream of the crop, with proven Boat Handling Skills. Companies were happy, move more cargo for less $$, no weather delays, minimal crew increases. And better living conditions for the crew. A win-win.
The USCG, per Usual, allowed it self to be manipulated by the companies, using the Grey Tonnage Area, by which manning and hour requirements are different between Inspected and Uninspected, as we all know. The prevailing industry standards and attitude of the Tug/Barge came with new equipment. 6/6, 6 or 7 crew members, ect…
The came the Pin-Boat idea-ah, retrofit! ATB, maybe-hard to figure out What they are…that “Grey” area again.
Yes, there NEEDS to be a Distinct And Separate Class for the Actual ATB, the Crowley Class, the new Reinauer Boats, the US Shipping Vessels, the OSG Units.
It is unfathomable that a Towing Endorsement can be signed off on from a boat which has No Tow Gear!
As the older Tug Guys who were the first on the ATBs retire, those years of experience go with them. There is No Way someone is going to “String Out” Crowleys 255 Series Barge, or the RTC-135… .The Unit is made to PUSH, not TOW. The only people who have a Chance of this are becoming Scarcer and scarcer. Ship work is ship work-and a REAL ATB is a Ship, not a Tug.
If you have an ear to the Industry, you can listen to the frustration of Tug Boat Captains who get Whole crews who have Never so much as hooked up a tow wire, rigged a bridle or even made up along side.
For the Safety of all Mariners a Separate and Distinct Class of Vessels is a Must!