The towage and pilotage sector has been tasked with improving communications and ensuring crew levels match operational requirements, says Martyn Wingrove
Last week I attended the British Tugowners Association’s annual safety seminar at the UK Chamber of Shipping in London.
During that seminar, the UK Government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch chief inspector Andrew Mollchallenged the towage sector to improve safety to prevent fatal accidents in the future.
His recommendations made a lot of sense as they came from an authority that has investigated tug crew and pilot deaths over the years.
Mr Moll reminded the industry how easy it is to capsize tugs if there is a breakdown in communications.
One of his core messages is that pilots, ship masters and tug teams should speak to each other more frequently to prevent misunderstandingsand sudden changes in operation.
Prior to an escort or berthing operation, pilots should brief tug and ship masters on their plans.
I think tug skippers should be prepared to ask for details of the plan if they are unsure.
Tug masters need to be clear on the expected work, whether tugs are there to escort ships or just to assist in their berthing.
They need to know the contingency plans –what is expected of their tug if plans change or if there are issues with the tow.
Communications between the masters and the pilot should continue throughout operations to ensure tugs are not surprised by unexpected ship movements, which has caused tug capsizes.
There also needs to be a balance between the safety risks and the commercial and project requirements. This includes crewing levels on tugs, which need to be practical for the work these vessels will be conducting.
The challenges have been set for the towage sectorand I expect there to be a positive report on safety and communications improvements at next year’s British Tugowners Association annual safety seminar.