Safe Operations, Proven Results

By Tom Allegretti, President & CEO of the American Waterways Operators
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Response to “The Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) Quandary”

The recent editorial (MarineNews February edition) by Jeff Cowan entitled “The Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) Quandary” raised more than a few eyebrows here at the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and among AWO members who operate ATBs. Mr. Cowan has it backwards: far from being unsafe, ATBs in fact represent a significant advancement in safety in the coastal tugboat and barge industry and have a long history of safe operation. Mr. Cowan’s piece also contained several factual errors and is based on the flawed premise that the regulatory standards for tankers should be applied rigidly to ATBs despite the differences in vessel characteristics. We would like to set the record straight.
First, while Mr. Cowan suggests that ATBs are a poor substitute for tankers, we have never heard industry experts argue that ATBs are, or should be, replacements for tankers. Rather, ATBs are replacements for towed barges, and as such provide substantial improvements in terms of safety, reliability, effectiveness, accommodation and comfort. Even so, one could nonetheless make the case that an ATB is as safe, or, in some cases safer, than a tanker. Consider a few key areas.

Vessel Design and Technology
Proven engineered systems for connecting the tug in the notch to the barge have been successfully deployed in the U.S. coastal trades since 1986. Mr. Cowan suggests that ATBs are prone to coming out of the notch in heavy weather, but in fact the opposite is true. They are designed to stay in the notch as a safety feature. In some coastal areas, including those around the Columbia River Bar, ATBs regularly operate safely in 15-25 foot seas or more.
Additionally, an ATB by design has more redundant systems than a tanker. All ATBs have two propulsion plants that operate independently, whereas all but six U.S. coastal tankers have single propulsion systems. Additionally, ATBs have two propellers and two rudders compared to the vast majority of ships, which only have one. ATBs are built to the same ABS standards as tankers and comply with all applicable IMO regulations.

Crewing and Safety Management
Tankers in the 330,000-barrel range typically have a 21-person crew that includes three stewards, compared with 14 on a similar-sized ATB, counting the cook. The difference in the number of personnel on the vessel is often made up with by larger shore-based maintenance crews. Tankers typically have nine officers compared with eight for a similarly sized ATB. There is one fewer on an ATB because there is less administrative work required of the master. As for watchstanding during cargo operations, a tanker typically has one deck officer and two able-bodied seamen (ABs), whereas a comparably sized ATB has one deck officer, one AB/Tankerman and one utility crew member. Several ATB operators don’t just use ABs, but rather specially trained AB/Tankermen. These individuals are full persons-in-charge (PICs) and can, if needed, be in charge of oil transfer operations.
ATBs are manned to comply with STCW 95 requirements and all crew members work within the 12-hour rule. The main difference in manning between tankers and ATBs is in the food preparation department and the extra hands used for on-board maintenance. Under the ATB operating model, some of the maintenance is performed by shore-based contractors. This eliminates the need to do maintenance while underway, which at times can be unsafe for crews to perform. The use of computer-based maintenance systems like ABS Nautical Systems 5 also helps to manage shore-based maintenance. Several ATB operators use this technology, in close partnership with ABS, to document maintenance and inspections.
To suggest that self-propelled ships with larger crews are inherently safer than ATBs is simply wrong. The fact is that ATBs have never had a significant accident, while the Cosco Busan (a container ship) and the Exxon Valdez referenced by Mr. Cowan, were both ships with large crews that had major accidents. Contributing to the record of safe ATB operations are major industry improvements in safety management systems, including the AWO Responsible Carrier Program, the ISM Code, the Tanker Management and Self Assessment (TMSA) office audits and Ship Inspection Report (SIRE) customer vessel audits. These systems are subject to rigorous internal and external audits. While Mr. Cowan suggests that ATBs do not carry the personnel necessary to successfully implement a safety management system, the opposite is actually true.  The fact that companies operating ATBs have enthusiastically embraced safety management systems is a major reason why the industry is able to transport millions of gallons of oil each year safely, securely and efficiently.

Regulatory Compliance
It is important to note that several AWO member companies operate ATBs that travel to foreign destinations that are more than 200 miles offshore. These vessels are compliant with STCW 95 requirements and will adhere to the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 when fully implemented.  These vessels also comply with International Ship and Port Security Code requirements and have approved security plans on all vessels.
Moreover, contrary to Mr. Cowan’s commentary, oil spill prevention regulations do not differ between tankers and ATBs. Tanker and ATB owner/operators use the same vessel response plans. And, while Mr. Cowan asserts that there is the potential for a spill of up to 400,000 barrels from an ATB, that is not only impossible (there are no 400,000 barrel ATBs), but also unlikely given the many layers of safety built into their operation.
The bottom line is that an ATB is no more likely to be involved in an accident than a tanker, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Our member companies take great pride in keeping their crews, their vessels, their cargo, and the waters upon which they operate safe and secure. Our industry will continue to advance this culture of safety as it moves the cargo upon which this nation depends.
 

(As published in the April 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)

Maritime Reporter June 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Technology

Conference to Delve into Hybrid Power & Propulsion

The first international Hybrid Marine Power & Propulsion Conference will be held at the RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole UK from October 6-8, 2015.   Shock Mitigation

Otto Marine Secures $131 mln in New Contracts

Otto Marine Limited, an offshore marine company which specializes in building complex offshore support vessels, ship chartering and offers specialized offshore services,

Polarcus Divests from Select Projects in Europe, Africa

Polarcus Limited announced it has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company ASA (TGS) for the sale of its multi-client projects in Northwest

Workboats

Conference to Delve into Hybrid Power & Propulsion

The first international Hybrid Marine Power & Propulsion Conference will be held at the RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole UK from October 6-8, 2015.   Shock Mitigation

ContainerTug B.V. Releases Two New Models

Young Dutch ship design, engineering and construction company ContainerTug B.V. follows on the introduction of the ContainerTug 600S early last year with the release

Harvey Gulf Acquires Shipbuilding Assets

Harvey Gulf continues growth despite industry downturn; new affiliate Harvey Shipyard Group acquires Gulf Coast Shipyard Group   Harvey Gulf International Marine (HGIM) is launching a new affiliate,

Maritime Safety

Maritime, Migration Heads Pledge Joint Action

The heads of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Monday, June 29 reaffirmed their commitment

Conference to Delve into Hybrid Power & Propulsion

The first international Hybrid Marine Power & Propulsion Conference will be held at the RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole UK from October 6-8, 2015.   Shock Mitigation

Missing Divers Found in Gulf of Mexico

U.S. Coast Guard crews locate two missing divers in Gulf of Mexico   Two overdue divers offshore from San Jose Island, Texas, were rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard

Vessels

HMS Queen Elizabeth Powers to Life

U.K. Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has produced power from her onboard diesel generators (DGs) for the first time, marking a significant stage in the program.

Tuco Reveals New Naval Interceptor Vessel Design

Following last week’s Seawork exhibition on workboats and small military and security vessels, Tuco Marine of Denmark reveals its newest vessel in the ProZero line.

Austal Starts Next US Littoral Combat Ship

Austal and the U.S. Navy held a keel-laying ceremony today for the future USS Manchester (LCS 14), marking the first significant milestone in its construction.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Standards Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.4223 sec (2 req/sec)