Manning Levels on ATB and Tankers

There could be lookout at night by the AB/Cook and Eng. doing such duties while sailing.
(No cooking at night and watch free E/R)

With the short, if any, dark period in summer, no problem. But the long, or almost continuous, darkness in the winter, that may be difficult to combine with their other duties.

Benefits of the ATB

– USCG Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 2-81 – regulations pertaining to tug-barge combinations
– Push Mode Integrated Tug Barge (ITB) – Tug and Barge cannot operate separately – Treated like a ship by USCG
– Dual Mode Integrated Tug Barge (ATB)
– Tug and Barge can separate and operate safely on tow line
– Treated as two vessels by USCG
– Industry has adopted the term Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) for the dual mode ITB
Modern ATB is a Jones Act Solution
– Lower operating expenses
– Lower capital investment
– At similar drafts, barge capacity larger due to absence of engine room
– Articulated tug/barge connection keeps tug in notch in up to 25 foot seas virtually eliminating weather advantage of the tanker
– Tug (living spaces) can separate from barge in an emergency

It is somewhat surprising that the USCG considers a barge to be a vessel. Maybe but it is certainly not a ship.


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The manning figures doesn’t tally with what have been said here about ATBs being manned by 5 pers.(??)
21 pers. on a tanker of relatively modest size. Is that still the reality under US flag?

The manning figures doesn’t tally with what have been said here about ATBs being manned by 5 pers.(??)
21 pers. on a tanker of relatively modest size. Is that still the reality under US flag?

Manning is set by owners, regulators and by the crew. If labor is weak the only say the crew will get is the through the market, they can vote with their feet.

That leaves owners and regulators. In the U.S. tugs have been mostly unregulated. An ATB is considered as a tug so that leaves manning entirely up to the owners.

If the owners don’t recognize the need for a little built in resilience, some redundancies then they will cut to the bone.

MPA Singapore rules for min. safe manning:

It follows international standard and only state that the safe manning must take into consideration the type of vessel, trade and special operations carried out. It does not consider other factors, such as maintenance etc.

This is as the UK and Norwegian similar notification on MSM.

When I was captain of an integrated tow we had a captain, a mate, 2 ABs, an Ordinary, 2 engineers and a cook, eight. In bad weather all hands meant all hands. The engineers and the cook came out to help and when the engine room had a major problem the deck sent people down to assist. Those crews were the best ones I ever sailed with. Now the cooks are almost all gone. One engineer is common. The ordinary, who used to clean up during the day watch is gone. Five man crew is common unless it’s a long haul and 8 hour watches on the bridge are required. Many companies have one or two employees who are only responsible for the barge cargo. Sometimes they ride the unit, sometimes they fly from port to port to meet the cargo.

I never ran a tanker, but served as pilot for many years on US and foreign ships. 21 seems high unless it was a chemical ship where tank cleaning by the crew was part of the job. There never seemed to be any truly “all hands” cooperation between deck and engineering, but I might have missed it. I’d like to hear from some tanker people about how big a crew they actually need.


The manning you mentioned was similar to the manning we had on an AHTS except that the four ratings were all intergrated ratings, one of which was the cook and the other as an oiler when they weren’t required for deck duties. The AB/oiler was a class certified welder.

Hard to argue with that. I will say that my experience with an early ATB, even operated by a ship management company was a bit different. After a time, we actually increased the size of the crew to the point where we were sailing with three engineers, a Master and two mates, a cook, two tankermen, two ABs and and OS. Still less than a comparable ship, but more than subsequent operators placed onboard. We had the odd incident, and it was very hard work, but I don’t believe that any of the incidents were related to fatigue.

In the 70’s, the larger old tugs where the engineer on watch had to constantly monitor the engine and make adjustments, 10 men was a typical three watch system, plus a cook.

If you are dealing with a $50 million tug and barge combination, and $4 million worth of cargo, and taking a risk on a $1 billion spill, why would you want any fewer men? The extra cost of having a full crew is not much money. It only costs about half a cent per gallon more.

Another question is why the Maritime Authorities of the flag state, the Coastal states who’s waters they sail in, the Underwriters and P&I clubs allow it???

Ever since you posted a picture of that nice little tanker transiting 900 miles of Norwegian coast making many deliveries with only 4 men, US owners are asking why they are paying for 6 guys, when the highly regulated unionized Norwegians do it with 4 men?


We run Capt, CM, 3 mates, 3 watch ABs, 2 daymen, 3 man Steward dept, CE, 1,2,3 AEs, pumpman, 2 wipers. So that’s 20 I guess.

As far as how many we NEED, if you had quality, hard working, self starting types, you could get away with 2 man Steward Dept, and only 1 wiper for sure. Not sure about the need for 5ABs on Deck… And the 3rd Junior mate could definitely be a fly away guy who shows up at load/discharge ports because God knows the CM is underutilized while underway.

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I agree!! The ALICE had phenomenal engineers! LOL!

It is not quantity but quality that counts I guess??

What size, type of tanker and what trade?

sailed pumpman for 40 years with nmu. a good crew pays for its self plus so mush more

If I’m not mistaken all or almost all U.S. tankers and ATBs are in the coast-wise Jones act trade. I’m also not sure if it holds 100% but in general the tankers are union. Not sure about the ATBs, some at least are non-union. I would expect that the non-union vessels would tend to run with smaller crews.

Another issue is what type of Union?

Do some of the tankers still have”company unions”?

MMP (offshore), MEBA, SUP, and SIU (offshore) are “real maritime unions.”

AMO is “different.”

Tugboats are apt to be MMP Inland which is a sick joke, or SIU Inland, or IBU, or Local 5000, or Local 25. Undoubtedly, the majority of tugboats are nonunion. My guess would be that most ATBs are some form of MMP Inland or SIU Inland.

The unions and the owners are hand in hand in a race to the bottom.

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330,000bbl, product tanker (normally single product per voyage), coastwise US