The tugboat is a highly specialized vessel. Its primary function is to help a ship or a boat move from one location to another. Typically, a tugboat will be utilized after an accident that makes a vessel incapable of moving on its own.
Because of the many dangerous aspects of the job and the use of heavy equipment, sailors working on tugboats have a relatively high risk of injuries. Numerous crews have gotten in serious accidents through the years and sometimes, the outcome of some of them has been a fatal one.
Main Accident Causes
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 82 percent of commercial vessel fatalities in the US involve the use of tugboats, motor boats, and ships. In the period from 2003 to 2009, there have been 334 fatal occupational injuries. The biggest number of such accidents occurred in Alaska.
Non-fatal injuries totaled 610 for the same period. Most often, contact with objects or equipment contributed to trauma, followed by over-exertion. Sprains and strains are the most common injury type on commercial vehicles.
Whenever tugboats are involved, there are several specific risks that could potentially lead to injuries and fatal outcomes:
- Mechanical failures, old equipment and the use of defective machinery
- Tugboat collisions
- Falls from the tugboat
- Onboard hazards like wet surfaces, lack of safety equipment
- Improper training
- Electrical accidents and fire hazards
Several Tugboat Accident Examples
Multiple accidents have occurred through the years, some of them having a devastating outcome. One of the newest cases was from 2016 when a tugboat collision killed three crew members.
The accident occurred in March, and it took place on the Hudson River, close to Tappan Zee Bridge. The vessel collided with a construction barge, which caused its almost immediate sinking. Three crew members were killed on the spot.
The accident investigation was concluded about one year later. Experts found out that inadequate manning of the tugboat and fatigue were the two reasons that caused the deadly accident.
A tugboat sunk in the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2017. Crosby Commander went underwater close to Louisiana after being operational for many years. The investigation is still ongoing about the cause of the accident. After the vessel had sunk, three crew members were rescued from the water. One went missing.
Tugboat Accidents and the Rights of Workers
Like all other maritime workers, individuals employed on a tugboat are protected against employer negligence. Vessel owners and companies operating such craft are obliged to ensure optimal work condition, training and the availability of safety gear. Any omission could entitle a worker to file a claim against the company for negligence.
Tugboat workers are entitled to injury and accident protections under the Jones Act.
It’s also possible to file a complaint with OHSA whenever safety standards have been ignored. The administration could potentially choose to launch an investigation and demand remedies from the company operating the vessel.
Anyone who becomes injured or disabled in a tugboat accident should consult an experienced maritime attorney. The chances are that the employer could potentially be sued for negligence. In such instances, the worker may be entitled to medical bill payments, compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages and long-term disability. The family could sue for death benefits in the case of a tugboat accident that has a fatal outcome.