Without a doubt, tugboats are one of the most vital and necessary ships at sea. Tugboats are specialized vessels designed to tow, direct, or assist other, larger vessels. Tugboat accidents are usually directly related to those activities.

In part because they are designed to help larger ships navigate congested or challenging waterways, tugboats must be exceptionally powerful. And all of that power is packed in a relatively small frame that must exert force against other vessels in order to help steer them (without, of course harming those other ships). In fact, the U.S. Army’s biggest tugboat can haul an entire aircraft carrier.

Working on a tugboat can also be quite hazardous. Tugboat accidents can occur for any number of reasons, some of which are preventable and some that are not. The attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have a great deal of experience working with seamen who have been injured in tugboat accidents in ports along the East Coast. 

Common Types of Tugboat Accidents

A tugboat can be tasked with ferrying any number of other vessels, from large container ships to self-contained barges. The primary job of any tug is to help move these larger vessels from place to place, especially in areas where larger ships may not have the capacity to effectively maneuver on their own.

Working in these conditions, tugboat accidents tend to be relatively common:

  • Collisions – To a certain extent, tugboats are designed to collide with other ships. However, the close proximity in which tugboats operate to other vessels means that sometimes unplanned collisions can happen. That can often lead to significant damage to the tug itself. A 2017 analysis of tugboat accidents found collision was the most common accident type for tugboats, and human error was the leading cause.
  • Accidents involving shackles or heavy lines – Tugboats are often secured manually to larger ships, and that can be accomplished using heavy lines or shackles. These lines have the potential to create tugboat accidents if they are improperly secured (or if workers get between those lines and where those lines intend to be). The sudden snapping of lines and shackles can also cause significant injuries.
  • Slips and falls – The deck of a tugboat is often slick with water. This means that crew members can sometimes slip and fall. It’s an accident that sounds mundane but can actually cause significant injuries. This is especially true if a tugboat worker slips and falls overboard.
  • Gangway accidents – Gangways, which essentially act as a flexible catwalk joining one section of a ship to another (or one vessel to another vessel), have the potential to cause tugboat accidents. They are commonly used on a tugboat as a way to reach another ship for the purposes of securing the two vessels. Tugboat accidents on gangways can leave seamen falling from great heights or falling overboard.
  • Mechanical accidents – Tugboats are usually provisioned with a lot of heavy machinery. The engines on a tugboat, for example, tend to be large and powerful. The failure or maintenance of any of that machinery can cause tugboat accidents ranging from mangled fingers to severe fires. The more powerful the machine, the more significant the accident might become.

Common Causes of Tugboat Injuries

Tugboats are the sturdy workhorses of the maritime industry, yet their small sizes can cause numerous accidents and injuries, and there are real safety risks associated with working this job. From accidents involving fingers being cut off and other parts of your body crushed, the attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have represented many seamen who’ve experienced tugboat accidents, both big and small. Some of the most common tugboat injuries include:

  • Tugboat AccidentsCrushing or compression injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (usually suffered in a fall)
  • Hypothermia
  • Neck or back injuries
  • Injuries caused by getting caught between two heavy objects
  • Injuries caused by tow lines and shackles
  • In some cases, injuries may include severed fingers and limbs

Accidents on tugboats can often induce life-threatening injuries. That’s why it’s important all crew members are trained in safety procedures and policies. When seamen are not adequately trained, tugboat accidents may occur more frequently or with greater severity. That’s why it’s critical for all tugboat operators to place a consistent emphasis on safety and training.

What Are Your Rights After Tugboat Accidents?

Knowing your rights in the event of a tugboat accident can be challenging after suffering a serious injury. Tugboats often operate in ports or in fresh-water conditions. Yet, tugboat workers are still covered under maritime law. The attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have the experience and expertise to know the most effective ways of pursuing damages for your tugboat injury claim. If you’ve been injured, you might qualify for Maintenance and Cure under the articles of the Jones Act.

The experienced team of attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have helped tugboat workers injured in tugboat accidents protect their rights and get the compensation they deserve. Maritime law can be especially confusing — so make sure you have an experienced team at your side to fight for your legal rights on your behalf.