Commercial Vessel Compliance

9/4/2018: Towing industry safety statistics for 2017

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 2017.

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 casualties (overall and by incident severity)

The report also includes summary statistics on crewmember injuries, which the National Quality Steering Committee began tracking in 2006, for calendar years 2006 to 2017.

Crew Fatalities

In 2017, there were six operational towing vessel crew fatalities. While 13 deaths were reported to the Coast Guard aboard freight carrying towing vessels in 2017, only six were directly related to towing vessel operations. The other seven deaths were due to existing medical conditions (6) and an accidental overdose (1). Of the six crew fatalities, two vessel casualties accounted for two deaths each, and the other two deaths occurred in separate incidents.

Chart 1 - Crew fatalities by year

Oil Spill Volume and Rate

According to Coast Guard records, 84,319 gallons of oil were spilled as a result of 49 tank barge pollution incidents in 2017.

The three largest spills accounted for 99 percent of the total volume of oil spilled from tank barges in 2017. The projected oil spill rate for 2017 is approximately 1.13 gallons of oil spilled for every million gallons transported, or one gallon of oil spilled for every 885,000 gallons transported.

Overall, the oil spill rate continues to be relatively low, considering the overall volumes transported, and that oil volumes transported by barge have increased 17.7 percent over the past six years (2011-2016).

Chart 5 - Oil spilled from tank barges

Chart 6 - 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 crewmember death, personnel injury or operational spill occurred are not included in this measure since they are included in other sections of this report.

In 2017, there were 934 towing vessel incidents, of which 82percent were classified as low severity incidents. Medium and high severity incidents represented 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. There was a 24 percent decrease in investigated towing vessel incidents from 2016 to 2017.

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

Chart 7 - All towing incidents by severity

Chart 8 - Medium and high severity incidents

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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