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Tugging Your Way to Injury: Common Causes of Tugboat Accidents


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9/22/2016
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Maritime commerce has been vital for the Texas economy for over 200 years. Ever since the area was settled by Europeans in the early 1800s, waterway trade has been the foundation for the area’s economic growth. Over the past two centuries, Texas maritime commerce has grown exponentially. The creation of 17 commercial ports on the Gulf of Mexico has allowed for a yearly export and transport of nearly 75 million tons of seafaring cargo. As a result of this expansion, Texas has grown to be the second highest ranked water-commerce state in the United States.

Although essential for Texas commerce, controlling and safely maintaining this maritime traffic can be tricky. In fact, over 34,000 tugboat trips are required in order to maneuver the enormous cargo ships into port for loading and unloading. Unfortunately, with every trip, those aboard the tugboats face a variety of risks.

Common Tugboat Risks and Causes

As with any maritime vessel, tugboats are susceptible to a variety of mechanical and capsizing accidents. However, in addition to these common maritime risks, tugboats are also vulnerable to hawser accidents. Hawsers are thick cables attached to tugboats that allow them to pull ships, oil rigs, and other vessels in need of help. Tugboats are required to have at least one of these cables on board, but many have several. Unfortunately, although essential to do their job, these cables can cause serious damage if not maintained or handled properly. The three most common risks include:

  • Metal lines snapping. Most hawser lines are made of metal rather than rope. Many tugboat owners make the switch because metal cables are typically able to pull heavier loads. However, with this advantage comes the disadvantage that they tend to snap easily, endangering anyone nearby. Even when the hawser is not broken, tugboat workers can be seriously injured or killed by a recoiling hawser if they are standing in the “snap back” area of the boat.
  • Old equipment failing. Tugboat equipment is expensive, which is why many boat owners often skimp on quality pieces when repairing old vessels or installing new features. Using second-hand or uncertified towing equipment is not recommended or safe, as substandard cables or chains could snap when in use and cause injuries.
  • Improper handling and balance. For a relatively small tugboat to pull a massive barge, the captain of the boat must be able to balance the center of gravity between the barge and the hawser. When these calculations are inaccurate, the hawser may fail and cause the boat to capsize.

Has a Tugboat Accident Changed Your Life?

Employers have obligations to provide safe working conditions and equipment for their employees. When this doesn’t happen, and you are hurt as a result, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation.

When confronted with a serious maritime accident injury, the most important thing to take care of first is your health. You need to seek appropriate medical treatment which may have you in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital for days, weeks, or even months. This extended treatment can cost thousands of dollars, in addition to the initial care costs.

If you don’t think you should be held responsible for these fees, you’re not alone. Attorney Steve Lee doesn’t think you should be either. Contact our office today to find out if you are entitled to receive financial compensation to help cover the costs associated with your injury.

 



Category: Maritime and Offshore Cases

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