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Tugboat accidents among risks faced by Mississippi River crews

by | Dec 10, 2020 | Admiralty And Maritime Law

Ol’ Man River. Big River. The Big Muddy. Whichever nickname you prefer – and there are many — the Mississippi River continues to play an important role in U.S. commerce. The waters call out to particular people, who embrace the great river that serves as the backdrop of their working lives. Crews of many of the river’s tugboats are among this club.

These small, but powerful vessels regularly are seen by some residents of western Kentucky as they travel along the Mississippi River. There is some romance with river tugboats, but there is also hard work, stress, sweat and potential danger for crew members. Tugboat-related accidents happen, risking serious injury as well as the lives of the people who work on them.

Collisions, capsizing and overboard falls

Crew members understand the dangers. Even with the best training and taking proper safety precautions, accidents involving tugboats occur. Here are examples of tugboat accidents:

  • Collisions with other boats and objects: It is not easy to maneuver in difficult river areas. Crews must skillfully navigate the Mississippi River in order to avoid collisions with large and small fishing vessels, barges and bridges.
  • Capsizing: The currents and rough waters of the Mississippi River prove an entirely new set of challenges and can cause a boat to capsize. Severe weather as well as mechanical failure along with collisions also threaten tugboats with the same fate.
  • Accidents on board the vessel: With slick decks, tugboats, sometimes, provide dangerous footing for crew members who may succumb to injuries due to slips and falls. Accidents in the engine room also occur.
  • Falling overboard: This is a hazard faced by any person who works on a boat. Among the potentially dangerous tasks faced by tugboat crew members is securing barges that have come loose. There have been occurrences in which workers lose their footing, fall overboard and either drown or are crushed by the barge.

Despite every precaution made even with experienced crews, accidents occur on any shipping vessel. While risks exist in the daily lives of tugboat crews, there are many rewards, too, working along the Mississippi River. Just remember to abide by those precautions and understand the importance of safety.


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