The river beckons a certain type of person, calling subtly yet brazenly. And, for many of these people, the river becomes the main setting for their working lives. Such is the case with some of the crew members of river tugboats. These powerful vessels that pull ships and barges along waterways are a sight to behold. Yet, it is not easy being a crew member of a river tugboat.
The work can take a toll on a person’s body, while accidents remain a risk even when crews follow the best safety precautions. An accident can occur unexpectedly, endangering the lives of the crew and causing serious damage to these Hercules-like vessels.
Collisions and capsizing
Among the common causes of tugboat accidents that can lead to injury or prove fatal include:
- Collisions: Working in difficult to navigate areas, tugboat crews do their best to avoid potentially deadly collisions with larger and smaller fishing vessels as well as bridges and barges. Even an experienced tugboat captain faces difficulties if forced to use archaic or improperly maintained navigational equipment.
- Capsizing: Rough waters and currents sometimes can make it difficult to maneuver on the river, potentially leading to capsizing. Extreme weather, mechanical failure and collisions with larger vessels can lead to the same result.
- On-board accidents: Slip and falls onboard slick decks can lead to serious injuries for crew members. Engine room accidents also occur. For the latter, there have been incidents in which a crew member’s clothing became caught in machinery and sucked the person into the engine. This is why it remains important to provide adequate training.
- Falls overboard: When barges become loose, the tugboat crew must secure it. However, this is a dangerous task as workers may lose their footing, fall into the water and drown, or be crushed by the barge.
The freedom and adventure of the Mississippi River called Mark Twain long ago. The same can be said for maritime workers such as river tugboat crews. It can be risky, but, ultimately, satisfying work for those who choose to do it. But they must remember that safety takes priority.