Wire tow

West Coast guy here. Towing light oil barge to New Orleans. I’ve heard different thoughts on this but is best to short wire up from Southwest Pass to New Orleans or put it on the hip? Which is more common? Thanks!

Weather permitting we would always make/break tow offshore sw pass. The weather wasn’t always cooperative, so more times than not we would usually do it somewhere between the head of passes and boothville.

We would be coming in/out of push gear and it can be pretty challenging with the ship traffic. No phucks given from those river pilots.


It is quite common to tow astern all the way to the city than round up & hip to dock, I have towed and landed tow on dock while still on the wire in higher river stages with assist boat on the tow, seen guys round up and drop the hook in Pilot town and get in a shallow notch and
Get the spectra’ s out or wires, assuming you do have an upper pilot house.


Same here.


I have towed all the way to New Orleans. That won’t be any problem if the tow tracks ok. As I recall, it requires permission to tow above Belle Chase.

Going upriver in push gear is fine, but it’s too far upriver for it to be practical on the hip.

Unless there is no swell, and your crew is sharp at rigging properly set up push gear (a West Coast boat and crew normally won’t be), you probably do not want to go into push gear outside the river. The local boats do it routinely, but they are set up for it and have had lots of practice to do it quickly.

There really isn’t anyplace in the river to go into push gear between SW Pass and the Boothville anchorage. You’ll want to anchor the barge to go into push gear.

You could hip up drifting at Boothville, or better yet at Belle Chase anchorages.

Upbound, you’ll have fast down bound ships and overtaking upbound ships passing you quite close. You’ll probably meet ships that are positioned in the river to pass starboard to starboard at certain bends. You won’t have any choice.

If you have not been up the river recently, you should take a Federal Pilot. They mostly do tug and barge transits and are good at it. They speak the local language and know the local tugs and pilots.

If someone asked me to do it today with the typical West Coast tug, I’d insist on the Federal Pilot all the way and a good tractor tug at New Orleans. I’d tow to New Orleans and hip up while drifting downriver with the Pilot using the tractor tug to keep us out of harm’s way while hipping up.

I haven’t gone upriver with a barged in 6 years, but I’ll be attending a boat in the shipyard in New Orleans next month.


This is good advice, and the Federal Pilots know their shit.

Last time up the River we had the Columbia Elizabeth container barge. We took a federal pilot, he steered up the river to the dock. We got on the hip right off the berth and the assist boat pushed us over. Leaving we got out in front of the barge and the assist boat pulled it off the berth, the federal pilot steered us down the River.

It was flood stage too, at one point we were making damn near 15kts. :flushed:


Just like these guy’s mentioned, probably the worst thing you will encounter are ship wakes
even if you have barge back close to 150’
astern and usually need to pull throttles back momentarily, used to occasionally wait on a large line haul towboat flanking lower nine mile
area but not even sure if coal gets moved much down to Myrtle Grove any longer, and that was rare.

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Hey, thanks for all the great advise. I’ve got numerous trips up river but all running ATB’s so just checking what everyone else has been doing towing wise. Can’t push it as no notch at all and don’t feel like slipping on just a head line and your right boat not set up to push. I’m heading up to mm108 so will tow it up and grab an assist to put it on the hip to dock when I find out where they want it. Thanks again for the advise! Smooth sailing.

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