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Are tugboats made to collide with other boats?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2022 | Maritime Law |

A tugboat’s unique design allows it to push and pull boats many times its size. It includes traction on the hull and significant engine horsepower. These features help the vessel withstand planned impact with barges or large ships. Tugs cannot handle unplanned collisions.

Accidents can happen due to faulty equipment, inexperienced personnel or poor conditions. Unforeseen crashes with larger ships can be devastating to a tugboat crew.

The force may cause workers to fall overboard

Tugboats are small, but they are jam-packed with all the equipment needed to service large vessels. That means there is not a lot of extra space onboard for crew members to move around. If a larger ship hits a tug without warning, the equipment could fall and injure workers or knock them overboard. The U.S. Coast Guard attributes most crew fatalities to falls overboard.

Unexpected contact can overturn a tug

Maritime accidents can cause small watercrafts to capsize. Once a tugboat starts to flip it is difficult to keep it upright. Seamen trying to escape can get sucked under sinking boats. Some become trapped in the hull and drown. Many of these tragedies are preventable by wearing a personal flotation device.

Harsh impact can damage onboard equipment

Sudden crashes may damage engines, winches or other onboard equipment. Damaged equipment may not work correctly and result in crew injuries later. Malfunctioning equipment may cause burns, broken bones or worse.

Tugboats are strong, but not invincible. Unexpected wrecks with larger vessels can cause damage, injuries or fatalities.