Commercial Vessel Compliance

2/21/2018: Towing industry safety statistics for 2016

The Coast Guard, in partnership with the American Waterways Operators (AWO), released the National Quality Steering Committee’s annual safety report. The report contains freight carrying towing industry data and measures for calendar years 1994 to 2016.

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:

• Crew fatalities per 100,000 towing industry workers.
• Gallons of oil spilled from tank barges per million gallons transported.
• The number of towing vessel marine casualties (overall or by incident severity).

This report also includes summary statistics on crew member injuries, which the National Quality Steering Committee began tracking in 2006, for calendar years 2006 to 2016.

Crew Fatalities

There were eight operational towing vessel crew fatalities in 2016. While fifteen deaths aboard towing industry vessels in 2016 were reported to the Coast Guard, only eight were directly related to towing vessel operations. The other seven deaths were due to existing medical conditions (5) and accidental overdose (2).

Of the eight crew fatalities, one casualty accounted for three deaths.

Crew Fatalities by Calendar Year

Oil Spill Volume and Rate

According to Coast Guard records 32,202 gallons of oil was spilled as a result of 64 operational tank barge pollution incidents in 2016. The three largest spills accounted for 97 percent of the total volume of oil spilled from tank barges in 2016. The projected oil spill rate for 2016 is approximately one gallon of oil spilled per 2,160,000 gallons transported, or 0.42 of a gallon spilled per million gallons of oil transported.

Overall, the oil spill rate continues to be relatively low considering the volumes transported, and the fact that oil transportation volumes by barge have steadily increased since 2011 (a 22 percent increase over the last 5 years).

oil spilled from tank barges


 Gallons of Oil Spilled by Tank Barges Per Million Gallons Transported


Severity of Vessel Incidents

A vessel incident is defined as one involving a towing vessel or barge engaged in carrying freight. Incidents where ONLY a crew member death, personnel injury or operational spill occurred are not included in this measure since they’re included in other sections of this report.

There were 1,231 towing vessel incidents, of which 84 percent were classified as low severity incidents in 2016. Medium and high severity incidents represented 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively. There was a 12.8 percent increase in investigated incidents from 2015 to 2016. The number of medium and high severity incidents remains fairly consistent over the years.

All Towing Incidents by Severity


Medium and high severity towing vessel incidents

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

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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