Jake Shearer (barge) separated from its tug near Goose Island




The compulsory pilotage is for vessels over 350 GT, which under U.S. Coast Guard rules would exempt the Jack Shearer /Zidel Marine 277, which carries 20,000+ bbls of oil because by CG rules it is a small tug.

The PPA cut though the U.S. Coast Guard’s nonsense with regards to the fiction of the ATB being a tug for regulation purposes with one sentence.

“This tonnage threshold applies to the combined tonnage of composite vessels, whether tug and tow, multiple strings of barges or Integrated/Articulated Tug-Barge (ITB/ATB)”


They allow combined tonnage up to 10,000 GT to have a waiver with operator recency on the waters. That’s exactly the same as US requirements for tug and barge pilotage.

“Waivers are available to all vessels under 10,000 GT, upon application to PPA and having satisfied the conditions as laid out below.”


all this talk about tugging and couplings is making me hot


The emergency hawser can (and should) be rigged so that it’s theoretically, completely ready to go before leaving the dock. Once an ATB tug is out of the notch, you’re going to be rolling like a mo-fo in any kind of sea, so good luck sending someone out on deck to handle lines, etc. Make sure it’s setup before you get underway.


I’ve never liked tug/barge combinations that allow relative motion between the pusher and the barge. It reminds me of this:

In this case, the barge was originally fitted with a three-point high ice class coupling system strong enough to withstand capsizing (see below), but the tug was an “aftermarket spare” with retrofitted Articouple units. In the following morning, the coupling units were probably still attached to what remained of the barge, but the tug had disintegrated…


From this article: Vigor delivers first ATB tug for Harley Marine

A key selling point is that the design allows a tug to stay connected to its barge as its draft changes during loading and lightering.

How does Intercon handle draft changes?


I’m not sure if it is every model of intercon, but to my knowledge you retract the pins, turn them 90* and extend back into the ladder.


Looks like Articouple uses a mechanical / hydraulic system to automate to some degree the draft adjustment.


I’ve got a friend on a recent articouple conversion, I’ll ask him how it works.


pretty good close ups of intercon …

they (ATBs) presently use one of six connection systems: Articouple, Bludworth-Cook, Hydraconn, Intercon, JAK and Westec. The generally-accepted slang term for them is pin boats, the reason for which should be obvious. When “pinned in” to their barges an ATB pivots on the transverse axis provided by said pins, allowing the “tug” to pitch independently from the barge, but they roll as one.

source: more visuals & write up at the link


Intercon warns that the worst scenario is a quartering sea.


That’s interesting, I wonder what kind of tools aboard the crew has to work with. In this case it would be nice to have internet to check the weather buoys to see what is happening in real time.


I understand the reason why ATBs exists, but not why they are allowed to operate in open waters outside the GoM.

OK, I know, I know. Greedy pigs pay off equally greedy politicians and the watch dogs are more occupied with planning for their pension age than worrying about the safety of seafarers.

There are obvious additional risk factors when towing or pushing, thus insurance premium is higher than for similar transport by ship. I presume that as long as they can charge premiums corresponding to the risk + a large profit margin, the Underwriters are happy and the consumers pick up the tab in the end anyhow.
As long as nobody protest, why rock the boat??

But how much longer will this be tolerated by Canada, especially when carrying Petroleum products or Chemicals along the pristine BC coast???


You just answered your own question. It’s always money

I’m sure Canada could pass legislation to protect its cost its still all about the money.

ATB’s operate on both sides of the US and in the middle along with many other places with a good safety record.


What is considered a good record? Compared to what?

Here is the Nathan E. Stewart, from last year, not that far from where the Jack Shearer lost it’s barge.

A rate of one incident/year for the last two years in BC waters.


Crowley is all intercon, the guys I know on the west coast love it. We have it as well on a GOM run with the 750s and it holds up great.


You got me on that one but human error aside they do have a good safety record.

NTSB on the Nathan E

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the grounding of the articulated tug and barge Nathan E Stewart/DBL 55 was the second mate falling asleep while on watch. Contributing to the grounding was the ineffective implementation of the company’s safety management system procedures for watchstanding.


You are correct. We retract the pins, flip, and extend the flat side back in the ladder. Just enough pressure to keep the tug in the notch but allows the barge to slide up or down as needed for loading/discharging. Once complete with operation we retract, flip, and extend teeth into ladder.

Intercon also has a shift tug function that extends one pin until the tug bumper is pressing the barge and the you can retract,flip, and extend without the tug moving. (Slow slow slow to do it that way.)


I just quoted what others have been saying here about the greed and corruption behind the present status of American maritime industry.

If ATBs with whatever connection system was such a great and safe way to transport goods at sea, why isn’t it used worldwide?

I have only seen a few such contraptions in Singapore that was non-American, (Limited to hopper barges belonging to Korean and Japanese dredging companies)

Pushers are used on the rivers and canals in many places, but not offshore: