P&I Club Gard says it has “seen an increasing number of incidents occurring during ocean towage of hulls from construction yard to outfitting site. The incidents are mainly caused by the loss of towage connection, followed by an inability to re-establish the tow before perilous situations arise and consequential stranding occurs. “
We have occasionally seen that a lack of experience, combined with incomplete risk assessments and planning, together with pressure to transport the hull to the outfitting site as quickly as possible, have resulted in decisions being made which have lead to the necessary precautions not being taken. Winter tow may involve additional problems and delay, for example: winter tows in ice conditions.The warranty towage survey with regards to weather and ensuring safe towage are also at times disregarded to hasten delivery.
Reasons for wire damage could be
(1) wires were not handled with care,
(2) wires snapped due to chafing on the stern of the tugs,
(3) the wires and wire-protectors were not well-monitored,
(4) the crew was too late refreshing the touch point of the wire on the stern,
(5) lack of knowledge of slacking of the wire in relation tothe water depth,
(6) the wires were touching the seabed which was covered with obstructions,
(7) the crew failed to haul in the wires on time, so contact with the seabed could not be avoided, and
(8) crews were too late paying out the towing wire or reducing speed when excessive forces came on the wire (weather, tug).
Responsibilities and command
Who is in control of contracting the tug; the owner, sub-contractor or insurer?
The party contractually obliged to transport the vessel will most likely be responsible for contracting the tug and will be responsible for any liabilities arising out of the tow. A shipbuilder’s all inclusive price for a vessel implies that it carries the contractual liability for delivery to the fitting out site.
Even though the tow may be considered a “dead ship”, the Master of the tug is always in command and has the final word in respect of the safety of the tug and tow. Owners’ representatives cannot override the decisions of the tug master. Lines of communication should be established with contractors/insurers and any information regarding the tow, communicated to them.
Contractors and yard issues
In our experience there are differing practices among tug operators, and these should be considered when selecting a candidate for the towage operation. The type of contract3 entered into could also affect the outcome of any incident arising during the towage operation. The tug master’s and crew’s previous experience of ocean towing is essential.
Gard has also seen that yards frequently place additional equipment and sections onboard vessels, hence additional time must be used on repeat surveys, fastening and recalculation of stability. Due considerations should also be given to any possible sub-contractors that may be involved in the way of steerage tugs, harbor tugs, and so on, in order to conduct the voyage in a safe manner.