Safety aboard tugs

This is just a quick observation from my first two weeks aboard a tug / barge. There is absolutely no regard for safety. Working 6 and 6 the mates have no time for any safety inspections. Life rings in disarray, scbas low on air, and who knows when the last time a fire station was exercised. On that note, we haven’t had a fire, boat, or safety drill at all and over half our crew changed when I got on.

That is in addition to no regard to safety procedures. No safety taken when entering confined spaces, fire doors propped open, and right now there is one AB working on deck, alone, at night, with no deck lighting whatsoever.

Im new to the tug thing but it seems to me that it is not safe…

What are others experiences in this regard. Where for you draw the line between making money and saying, the possibility of getting hurt isn’t worth it?

Sounds like a company that will have a hard time with Sub - chapter M…I work for a AWO RCP compliant company that makes a point of doing all of the things that you point out. As the mate on a 6&6 I also make a point of instructing my deck hand on the critical importance of acting as an additional set of eyes and ears throughout the watch. That cleaning is also inspecting, and when possible get him/her in to the wheelhouse and up to speed on operating the boat…That being said, our confined space entry is really limited to shipyard activities, though we treat the laz and the forepeak as such. Fire doors…mmm…the little boat has one water tight door between the ER and the berthing area - so it stays closed! We sail with small crews and expect everyone to do their part at keeping things safe and ready to go…Just my two cents…

Welcome to the tuglife!

But I thought you had, “…intimate knowledge on chipping, grinding, painting, and picking up heavy things and putting them down.” Didn’t quite prepare you for reality the way you thought it would? As Kenny said, welcome to tuglife.

Now, as uncomfortable as you appear to be, say something. Just be careful in how you say it. Ask questions, look for clarification. You know that a fire and boat drill is to be conducted any time more than 50% of the crew changes. Try telling the Captain his job and I’m fairly certain we both know how that’s going to end. Ask him where you are supposed to muster when the general alarm sounds and you’ll probably get a different explanation. You’ll also start an appropriate discussion providing you the ability to figure out what you want to know.

Good luck

@Cal - flame much? Those things have little to do with the topic at hand.

I would never tell a captain how to do his job. Its not my place. I will take your advice and try to being up the subject in an indirect way. But having sailed on other ships I know what it was like there and what it is like here. From the few comments (and I had expected) that most tugs are like this. The thing is a lot of the guys here have never sailed on anything else so they don’t know how other things are done other places, and no idea what the “rules” are. The mates just have no time to do anything about it.

Its a different experience going from safety safety safety to it doesn’t really matter because nothings happened yet.

[QUOTE=Siberfire;55605]@Cal - flame much? Those things have little to do with the topic at hand.[/QUOTE]

LOL! Ah yes, you would be correct that such things have little to do with the topic of safety. However, as items you used to illustrate your familiarity with the pertinent parts of the job some may expect of you, it paints a different picture of simple reality. Things one takes for granted frequently blind side them, which was the point some of us were trying to make. Just don’t let the Bic lighter bother you, it’s the bonfire that matters…:slight_smile:

Its a different experience going from safety safety safety to it doesn’t really matter because nothings happened yet.

Make sure you’re not confusing something that is viewed as an exercise in futility with the perception that it doesn’t matter because nothing has happened yet. Tugs face the same extreme, adverse environment as larger vessels but the reality is the timeline on our ability to react to some of those same adversities is nearly non-existent. You’ve read the incident report on the Tug Valor, you’ve obtained an intimate viewpoint on some of these accidents. Heck, look at the cumulative years of experience of the crew on the Valor, I think that’s the one that blows me away. They had time to address issues and avoid a loss of life, they failed to do so. Others don’t have that time. The sinking of a tug coming into New York Harbor, from the initial distress call to the time the tug was on the bottom was 8 minutes. Fire in the Kills some months ago, within 5 minutes the engine room fire was obviously beyond bringing under control by viewing from the outside of the vessel. There is no compartmentalization, the vessels are simply too small.

None of the above are an excuse for apathy, which seems to be our biggest enemy. A plan of action and making decisions on certain predictable scenarios, which is what your drills are for, is the best way to avoid such. Not the AWO paperwork shuffle that attempts to divert responsibility for an incident away from Company contributions, such as lack of proper maintenance, and on to the crew.

There are some things you can’t do anything about. Crew limitations create the situation where deckhands are working outside, alone, at night. That’s a reality that isn’t going to change, even if one dies because of it. The companies and regulatory bodies simply don’t care that much about one life, regardless of what they tell you. If they were sincere in that regard regulations would actually be enforced and crews wouldn’t be at a bare minimum. We are expendable. I get paid well for being so and I do my best to make sure I don’t become one that has been expended. If that is a situation you simply can’t reconcile within yourself, then tugboats aren’t for you. Don’t take such comments as an insult, they are merely a statement of fact, not a judgment of you, your abilities, or expertise. Tugboats aren’t for everyone, just as a desk job isn’t for everyone. Everybody has their own personal tastes and goals.

You are responsible first and foremost for yourself. If you see a safety concern correct it if you can. The life rings are in disarray? Correct the problem. Inspect them, determine what needs to be done to fix them, and request any necessary supplies or materials from the Mate, bring it to his attention and ask him what the best way to address the issue is. While such is definitely not your job, it is your life. You may have a guy that tells you to mind your own business, in which case I would be looking for another boat/job, but you may find that it bothers him as well that he doesn’t have time to take care of that portion of his job. Which I will state is a cop out. I work a 6 and 6 as well, I make the time, it’s that important.

There is the ‘office/book’ way and the way things really are. Some companies put more lip service into safety and some actually have more actual safety. Watch your ass and watch your shipmates ass and suck it up.

Not all companies are alike, Tugboating is definitely not for all. On my boat we take safety seriously its not just having good safety equipment, but also having a good safety culture between all the different crews who use and work on the boats.

[QUOTE=Siberfire;55592]This is just a quick observation from my first two weeks aboard a tug / barge. There is absolutely no regard for safety. Working 6 and 6 the mates have no time for any safety inspections. Life rings in disarray, scbas low on air, and who knows when the last time a fire station was exercised. On that note, we haven’t had a fire, boat, or safety drill at all and over half our crew changed when I got on.

That is in addition to no regard to safety procedures. No safety taken when entering confined spaces, fire doors propped open, and right now there is one AB working on deck, alone, at night, with no deck lighting whatsoever.

Im new to the tug thing but it seems to me that it is not safe…

What are others experiences in this regard. Where for you draw the line between making money and saying, the possibility of getting hurt isn’t worth it?[/QUOTE]
Just curious. when you found the SCBA low on air, what did you do?

Actually a favorite topic of mine.

I am DEFINITELY not a do hard, or do or die type of guy. But I do drills to acclimate the crew to the needs and awareness of life. My relief has the phrase “Gundecking” drills to the office (RCP, AWO, ABS) satisfaction. While I agree that this happens, and it actually meets the ‘Uninspected towing vessel’ requirements, it in NO way meets actual knowledge or experience requirements. It is probably the ‘norm’ what you are experiencing. Unfortunately for you! And that is indicative of the office expectations and competence.

I know of a couple of guys who drill to abandon, not that that is necessary either, but there must be a middle. But with this current ‘self certificated,’ AWO plan, there probably won’t be a change until the AWO is booted out.

Since when is an industry paid program proved effective to ‘police’ itself in a regulatory scheme?

[QUOTE=Flyer69;55637]Just curious. when you found the SCBA low on air, what did you do?[/QUOTE]

Just curious… How many SCBA bottles do you have aboard your tug? When you test one, you crack the valve? do you send it ashore immediately? I know that after a couple guys have hooked up, broke, and stowed it is NOT a full bottle.

What is the industry standard for amount of bottles to have on hand? Do tugs even have the requisite number of fire suits to relieve a fireman in this condition? How realistic is the firefighting scenario proposed by a ‘AWO RCP’ approved drilled plan? These questions really keep me awake at night. Well… almost as much as my mate! But seriously, my Mate has more experience than any 4 of the guys promulgating this BS. So where should I go to get my info?

Fire suits? SCBAs? What’s all that fancy dancy crap?

The first thing you need to do is Step up and be ProActive!
Did you Find out how to start the Fire Pump? Your Responsibility to Know How-Your Life May Depend Upon It.
Did You Check Your PFD and Immersion Suit for Lights/Whistles/Reflective Tape? It is Your Ass you save.
Don’t like the way the Life Ring Lines Look? Re String Them, Check the Water Light Batteries, Make them safe to use.
Carry a Flash Light and a Knife-So you can see what you are cutting your self out of in an Emergency. I Sleep with Both at my Fingertips.
Wear a Work Vest-it will Protect your Ribs and Chest if you fall onto a dock tieing up.
Your own LIfe is in YOUR HANDS!
Fix the Issue and keep on top of it or Go Elsewhere!

Trite but True, Safety Is EVERYONES JOB.

I don’t believe any of the posters to your query quite hit the point. I understand that if you bring up all of these valid points, you’ll soon be looking for another job. I’m sure if you look in the logs, and paperwork being sent to the office, you’ll see that all of the proper drills and safety checks are all in order. You also might find that you were a major contributor to these weekly, and or monthly Drills and Safety checks. But to bring it up in conversation, in a round about way is probably the best you can hope for.
I for one think it is a shame that this is the standard routine in most of the industry. It’s all about paperwork, to show the governing bodies that we are complying, vs. money, get the job done. All things will be in order for C.G. inspection.

Ive been making jokes, but seriously tug crews are often trying to find time in bewteen making and breaking tows, docking ships, ect, ect. You try not to wake anyone up off watch because sleep is a luxery thats in high demand. Often table top discussions are the only thing you can do and that at the galley table during dinner. My company has a calender with all of the required weekly drills that are supposed to be done. That helps because you dont have to figgure out whats been done and what needs to be done. You always have to be your own safety person if you dont see something thats right you have to bring it up, you have to use your own sence of whats safe and whats not on deck, 9 times out of 10 the guy in the wheelhouse will back you up.

Kenny, I think you’re absolutely right, time available is most important. Also safety begets safety. It only takes one crew member to start the ball rolling. “Lets talk safety.” As a new crew crew member on the boat, that is about all you can do, until the others pick up on it, least you become outcast for telling the crew they haven’t been doing their job. Walk soft, but carry a Big stick.

[QUOTE=Siberfire;55592]

What are others experiences in this regard. Where for you draw the line between making money and saying, the possibility of getting hurt isn’t worth it?[/QUOTE]

I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do but I’ve sailed on tugs with no safety equipment aside from a couple of fire extinguisher. That includes a tow from Seattle to Korea on a 108 ft tug, great circle via the Bering Sea - in February.

I think the key thing is how well the equipment works and how operations go. If the equipment always works and deck operations go smoothly and you have good situational awareness you are probably ok. If the stuff is always breaking down or not working right and deck ops are a clusterf**k you may not be.

I sail deep-sea. Without exception all the best third mates I get sailed on tugs at one time. If you stick with it till something else opens up you probably won’t regret it. Of course if you get hurt you will - your call.

K.C.

I just hired on with a tug company, I’m still waiting to get on a boat but I’m very curious now to see how our safety is? Seems like a good company though so I’d be surprised if it’s near as bad as you say.