The investigation of two maritime incidents caused by excessive speed during maneuvers led the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to encourage tugboat operators to set speed limits.
‘Risk increases with increasing speed’
The first incident occurred on April 14, 2022 when the tugboat George M and containership MSC Aquarius collided in the Houston Ship Channel approaching Morgan’s Point, Texas. The tugboat was attempting a harbor-assist maneuver at a speed that was too fast for conditions, resulting in the collision. No injuries were reported, but about 1,000 gallons of oil were released into the environment. Damage to the George M was estimated at $750,000, while damage to the MSC Aquarius was $183,665.
A similar incident occurred on Aug. 7, 2022, when the tugboat CC Portland grounded outside the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. The tugboat crew was attempting to secure a tow line onto the bow of an inbound liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier. Investigators determined the probable cause was the mate’s attempt to go bow-to-bow with the LNG carrier while both vessels were traveling at a speed that was excessive for the advanced harbor-assist maneuver. No injuries were reported. The grounding resulted in $1.3 million in damages to the CC Portland.
“The risk of a casualty during these operations with ASD (azimuthing stern drive) tugboats increases with increasing speed,” NTSB investigators said.
Slow and steady best choice with industrial equipment
In other industries, operators maneuvering equipment at high speeds can lead to incidents that could cause property damage, worker injuries and even death.
For example, if a forklift operator is maneuvering toward a warehouse rack to pull a pallet from a high shelf, excessive speeds could cause the forklift to tip over. That could potentially injure or kill the operator and any other workers in the area. At the very least, it could damage the forklift, racks and product.
When it comes to maneuvering with industrial equipment, slow and steady is always the best choice.