The Shipowners’ P&I Club issued a case study regarding an error in judgement whilst towing in a channel.
On 18 February 2011, an AHTS was towing an accommodation barge down a Channel on a SW’ly course. At approximately 21:50 the Master on the AHTS alleged that the steering had malfunctioned and was not responding to starboard helm commands. The current (3 kts x S’ly) set the vessel to drift off the channel towards an offshore installation (jacket) on her port side.
By effective use of the engines on the AHTS the Master managed to avoid vessel contact with the jacket. However, the tow wire contacted the jacket legs and the barge was carried away in a southeasterly direction around the jacket. The effect of the current and tension on the tow wire pulled the jacket over to one side slightly misaligning it from vertical.
The AHTS thereafter paid out more of her towline and altered her course to North, albeit with a lot of difficulty, to eventually clear the towline and the barge off the jacket.
This case highlights the severity of the consequences for failing to adequately compensate for prevailing conditions and not being familiar with own vessel’s manoeuvring characteristics. The importance of proper tug handling, including an initial and ongoing assessment of the length of tow being used, cannot be over-emphasised.
Source and Image Credit:The Shipowners’ P&I Club