29 Dec 2020
River Dance: Grounding Triggers Breakaway Barges
It was a beautiful mid-summer afternoon in the nation’s heartland. The skies were clear, the sun was shining and the variable southwest breeze barely caused a ripple on the muddy water of the winding river. Optimistic fishermen lined the riverbanks and a few recreational boaters were cruising close to the floating docks lining both shores.This tranquil scene on this busy waterway was about to change…and quickly.A parting of the waysAbout a half mile upriver…
23 Dec 2020
Wasted Words: Post-casualty Apologies Are ‘Sorry’ Excuses
Vessel collisions on America’s busy inland waterways have been a fact of life for a very long time. With towboats, barges, ferries, oceangoing ships and recreational vessels all jockeying for position in limited space, collisions (and even more near misses) are inevitable.Most of these incidents involving professional mariners do not lead to suspension and revocation (S&R) proceedings against the involved USCG licensed mariners…
15 Oct 2020
Bridge Heights Are Not Guesswork: Accuracy Is Imperative
“Your true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, and the pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings.” -Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883).That statement made by the great chronicler and river pilot over 137 years ago is arguably as true today as it was then. But what has changed dramatically in the almost century and a half since then is the variety and complexity of the daily challenges that river pilots confront on our increasingly busy inland waterways.
13 Apr 2020
Fast Water Imperils Tricky Night Move
In late Spring at about 0300 local time, an aging towboat (#1) was pushing two loaded barges upbound on a swollen and fast-moving northwestern U.S. river. It was a moonless night and, while certainly not unusual conditions for the veteran captain and his longtime deckhand, it didn’t diminish the added challenges of the short but tricky nocturnal run. And, as towboat pilots know, activities and hazards that are literally clear in daytime hours…
16 Oct 2019
“Minor” Incident Sends Mariner Down S&R Rabbit Hole
The twists and turns of any marine casualty investigation can be unpredictable, but what is predictable is the potentially crushing cost to defend your license,…
07 Jun 2019
SAFETY: Distractions Can Sink Careers
Familiarity can and does breed contempt. You don’t need anything else added to that heavy burden.We live and work in a frenetic environment replete with a wide range of both human and technological distractions. When those two elements came together on the bridge of a towboat traveling downriver to pick up a load of empty barges, the result was career-changing for the vessel’s first mate, who was on the wheel.
18 Dec 2018
A Costly Lapse in Judgment
An allision in the maritime sector is defined as an accident in which a moving object strikes a stationary object (bridge fender, bridge deck, dock, dredging vessel, etc.). According to the Maritime Law Association (MLA) such an accident calls the “Oregon Rule” into play. Simply put, the Oregon Rule states that “…when a moving object hits a stationary object, the moving object is presumed at fault.
31 Jan 2018
What Happens when Commercial and Recreational Vessels Face Off?
A generally sound assumption to make is that many recreational boaters operating power boats and sailing vessels are not very familiar with the maritime Rules of the Road that their professional mariner counterparts understand and adhere to. The unfortunate consequence is a wide array of marine casualties and incidents from collisions, allisions, capsizings, groundings, wake damage, many unreported and countless near misses.
11 Apr 2017
Mississippi Mishap: Bridge Allision Triggers 2-Year License Defense
Professional captains and pilots in all sectors of the maritime industry confront daunting challenges and hazards every day on every trip. From piloting oceangoing ships into congested harbors and safely docking them, to navigating ferries, tourist vessels and water taxis through harbors and rivers teaming with other commercial vessels and recreational craft and everything in between, U.S Coast Guard licensed deck officers have one of the most difficult, pressure-packed jobs in any industry.
22 Nov 2016
Workboat vs. Jet Ski: A Mysterious Collision and Its Consequences
As summer slowly fades to memory and commercial vessels have less frequent encounters with recreational vessels of all sizes, shapes and descriptions on America’s inland waterways, it might be a good time to review a strange, but not completely unusual incident that occurred in Louisiana on a navigable channel in the lower Mississippi River late last May. A workboat was pushing a small barge through…
08 Apr 2015
River Dance: Grounding Launches Runaway Barges, Coast Guard Investigation
It has been said that the vast majorities of collisions at sea occur in near perfect weather conditions. That trend can also be applied to the inland river system. Not too long ago, it was a beautiful mid-summer afternoon in the nation’s heartland. The skies were clear, the sun was shining and the variable southwest breeze barely caused a ripple on the muddy water of the winding river. Hopeful fishermen…
26 Nov 2014
Night Moves on America's Waterways
Overnight operations are certainly not unusual on America’s inland waterways, but that doesn’t make them any less hazardous. Onboard activities that seem so straightforward…
27 May 2014
There’s No Such Thing as a Routine Grounding
In past columns, the focus of our discussions has been primarily on maritime incidents such as collisions, allisions and groundings in which U.S. Coast Guard-licensed…
26 Sep 2013
Bridging the Trip Preparation Gap
Precision Is Imperative. The statement made by the great chronicler and river pilot himself over 130 years ago is arguably as true today as it was then. But what has changed dramatically in the six score and 10 years since is the variety and complexity of the daily challenges that river pilots confront in our modern world. The sophistication of locks, dams and the proliferation of bridges, the mercurial…
02 Apr 2013
To Report or Not to Report - That Should Never be the Question
In the realm of marine casualties and incidents, each case has its own set of facts, cast of mariners and vessels involved and, frequently, sharp differences of opinion regarding same. The one common denominator of most marine casualties, however, is the requirement to report them to the U.S. Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.). While what defines a marine casualty is often in the eyes of the beholder/mariner, it is much more prudent to err on the side of caution and…
26 Nov 2012
Rolling on the River
Professional mariners in all sectors of this diverse industry confront a myriad of challenges and hazards as they perform their daily duties. From piloting ocean-going ships into congested harbors and safely docking them, to navigating passenger vessels through harbors and rivers loaded with other commercial vessels and recreational craft and everything in between, U.S. Coast Guard licensed officers literally see it all on an almost daily basis.
02 Jan 2012
Loose Lips Sink Ships…and Careers
Valuable Lessons Learned – the Hard Way. Unfortunately, vessel collisions on America’s busy (but too often overlooked) inland waters have been a fact of life for a very long time. With towboats, barges, ferries, oceangoing vessels and recreational vessels all jockeying for position in limited space, many collisions, and even more near misses, are bound to happen. And while, thankfully, most of these…