Coast Guard units along the Gulf Coast, Mississippi River and Western Rivers system have begun operations to ensure towing vessels are properly manned and crews have proper licensing as part of Operation Big Tow, which is taking place from November through January.
The primary objective of Operation Big Tow is to ensure towing vessels are being operated by properly licensed individuals through boardings and examinations.
To minimize any impact to vessel movements or commerce by the Coast Guard by working with industry and towing vessel operators to conduct boardings and examinations at locks and dams, while vessels are tied up pier side, or through other methods that facilitate the flow of commerce while allowing examiners to check licenses and conduct safety checks.
"While the majority of the towing industry operates safely and complies fully with licensing requirements, this comprehensive operation will allow us to identify any companies that may have problems," said Capt. Verne B. Gifford, chief of prevention Eighth Coast Guard District.
Operation Big Tow comes in the wake of the worst oil spill ever on the lower Mississippi River. On July 23, 2008, the tanker Tintomara and a barge towed by the Mel Oliver collided. An estimated 280,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Mississippi.
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)