Towing and pushing of smaller construction barges

Construction barges regularly relocate to different job sites by being pushed or towed by another vessel.  

Often heavy, barges can be difficult to manoeuvre, and susceptible to wind, currents and tides. Relocating them creates a new set of risks that must be considered and controlled as part of your risk assessment. 

Some of the risks to consider include: 

  • Integrity of the barge. Is it water and weather tight?  
    • Any ingress of water can make a barge unstable and more difficult to manoeuvre under tow. Remove as much deck cargo and polluting substances from the barge as possible prior to relocation. Any ballast tanks required should be fully pressed and any load carried fully secured. 
  • Suitability of the towing or pushing vessel. Does it have appropriate National Law approvals to undertake towing operations? Does it have adequate power for the weight of the tow?  
  • Appropriate crewing of the towing vessel. Do they have the right qualifications and experience for this high-risk activity? How many crew are required? 
  • Master’s Line of sight and communication. Is the push or tow vessel’s clear line of sight obstructed by any part of the barge or its cargo? Can the master communicate with other crew? 
  • Towing arrangements. Arrangement of ropes and bridles on both vessels. Are the bitts/bollards of appropriate pull strength?? Can the arrangement be released under load in an emergency.
  • Tow ropes, bridles and wires—will they hold the full weight of the barge when its fully laden and under force? Are they in good condition? Have they been inspected/tested? 
  • Collision regulations. Are you displaying the correct day shapes or lights to advise other vessels of the nature of the tow? 
  • Emergency anchoring arrangements. Is the anchor on the barge fit for purpose with enough chain/rope and ready for immediate deployment?  

An appropriate passage plan should be developed to consider: 

  • Weather forecast and refuge points for different weather conditions 
  • Communications coverage to reach assistance if required 
  • Port limits/pilotage areas 
  • Known navigational hazards and consideration of the tow vessel draft and barge manoeuvrability.  
  • Fuel requirements for towing vessel 

Note the above is general information and specific survey requirements and other considerations may apply depending on the vessels involved and their regulatory requirements.

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