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8/26/2016: Towing industry safety statistics for 2015

CORRECTION: The annual safety report was updated on Aug. 29, 2016, to correct the type of cargo carried by barges pushed by the UTV PECOS. The report indicated the cargo was LNG, but the barges were carrying naturally occurring gasoline. The report has been updated to reflect this correction.

The U.S. Coast Guard, in partnership with the American Waterways Operators (AWO), released the National Quality Steering Committee’s annual safety report. The report details towing industry data and safety measures for calendar years 1994 to 2015.  A summary of the findings are provided below.

The National Quality Steering Committee looks at three safety measures to track overall trends in towing vessel safety and environmental protection:


There were six crew fatalities in 2015. This translates to a projected fatality rate of seven per 100,000 workers. Three of these fatalities were the result of falls overboard. Since the beginning of the safety partnership, the committee has focused on falls overboard since they account for approximately 50 percent of towing vessel fatalities.

Approximately 147,070 gallons of oil was spilled as a result of 68 tank barge pollution incidents in 2015. This translates to a projected oil spill rate of 1.92 gallons of oil spilled, per million gallons transported. Two incidents account for 97 percent of the volume spilled. The committee has convened several working groups to address oil spills, and most recently has focused efforts to address smaller spills resulting from oil transfers.

There were 1,184 marine casualties involving towing vessels or barges in 2015. Eighty four percent of the towing vessel casualties were classified as low severity incidents. Medium and high severity incidents represented 6 percent and 10 percent of all casualties, respectively. There was a significant decrease (34 percent) in all towing vessel casualties recorded between 2014 and 2015. This decrease may be attributed to changes in Coast Guard policy and procedures which impacted both marine casualty reporting and classification of incidents.

Please view the entire report to obtain more information on the safety measures and other information presented to the committee.

The Coast Guard continues to build upon its partnership with AWO following the release of Title 46, of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter M – Inspection of Towing Vessels. For more information concerning the new regulations and implementation guidance, please go to the Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise website.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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