Towing operations of any kind, customary or non-customary, are inherently risky; however it is known that these risks can be managed and reduced with due diligence and good seamanship, and this starts with a duty of care prior to commencement of the voyage.
It has been reported that there is an increase in the number of towage incidents, many of which have resulted in serious injuries, collisions, groundings, pollution, damage to property and loss of cargo.
Most tug and barge safety regulations focus on hardware and yet experience shows that a good safety record depends upon the safety culture of the entire company. The hardware issues are important, including the proper maintenance and inspection of equipment, but managing the human factor successfully would also lessen the number of accidents.To that end, a pre voyage towage approval survey is an essential activity to assist those involved in this evolution, to ensure safety and integrity of the personnel and asset is maintained.In our experience, we have seen most ports diligently require the issuance of a towage approval survey prior to the commencement of the voyage, but many operators treat this as a nuisance, sometimes construed as a monitory expense deemed unnecessary. Notwithstanding the same, towage approval survey to establish if the towage arrangements for the tow, including the towing vessel or tug/s, the towed unit/s and cargo are fit for the intended voyage, will assist operators in avoiding additional expenses due to risks that may have not been otherwise observed, and assist in preserving their cover for such risks Having said that, these must be carried out by an experienced and independent surveyor.Constellation Marine services have, within their fold, qualified and experienced Master Mariners, towing experts and naval architects, who understand that in the context of towing operations, assets with different design features have different characteristics, and each poses a set of reactions different form the other.It is extremely important to realize that towage approval surveys go beyond just the visual inspection of the towing gear, but should include every facet of the operation, from the planning, preparation, checks and contingency.With over 2500 towage approval surveys under our belt, as an experience statement and with no recorded incident to those assets approved for towage, our surveyors exhibit a keen eye and sense to highlight those issues that may generally be over looked by others. We base our observations and recommendations on the highest standards and guidelines, and this is manifested by our accreditation from the UAE Federal transport Authority for towage approval surveys.Not to mention that fact that faced with insuring a tow project, the underwriter may compulsively need know that a competent surveyor has physically inspected the tug and tow and approved the arrangements.In addition, constellation Marine can and is providing bespoke towage familiarization to those companies involved in towage operations, by way of seminars and in house training. This again reiterates our commitment to the safety standards the industry is aiming for.The importance in choosing the right Towage approval surveyor cannot be overstated. Engage a survey company that advises you and recognizes that such encouragement is beneficial in mitigating risk and enhancing safety, and one which is capable of imparting technical expertise rather than visualizing and certifying standard observations.It would therefore be prudent to understand that should concerned interests fail to comply with the requirements of warranty, and let the spread depart without a Certificate of Approval, H&M underwriters could likely place them in breach of their cover. Similarly, P&I insurance would likely be prejudiced as towage without warranty could be considered imprudent, depending on the actual circumstances.