European Tugowners and Pilots issue Joint Guidelines

by Hans | June 25th, 2011

After many months of work and consultation the European Tugowners Association (ETA) and the European Maritime Pilots’ Association (EMPA) have issued their ‘Joint ETS-EMPA Guidelines on Design and Layout of Harbour Towage Equipment’.

The guidelines are the result of operational problems increasingly experienced by pilots and tug operators when handling ever larger ships frequenting European ports.

In 2009 representatives from the European Tugowners Association (ETA) and the European Maritime Pilots’ Association (EMPA) met to discuss the most serious issues with a view to establishing a common position on ‘Best Practice’ for both pilotage and towage services.

The first objective for the two organisations was to raise the awareness of all parties involved (crews, tug masters, pilots) in order to enhance the safety and efficiency of towage operations. A second objective was to offer feedback to help remedy some of the shortcomings or limitations in existing ships requiring tug assistance and to extend the knowledge gained for future ship design and construction. The result of this work was a ‘Joint Position Paper of ETA and EMPA’ issued in January 2010 for circulation to members of the two organisations, ship owners and ship operators, naval architects, classification societies, shipyards, equipment suppliers and maritime academies. Its aim is to prompt a debate with the objective of eliminating or at the very least minimizing the identified safety concerns. (MJ – February 2010)

The new ‘Joint ETS-EMPA Guidelines’, dated February 2011, are derived from the consultation and debate on the original five page document. A full description of the published guidelines is unfortunately beyond the scope of this news feature. However, the five main concerns highlighted in what is now a quite detailed 26 page illustrated pamphlet will be instantly recognised by the majority of tugmen and pilots.

The topics covered are under the following headings and described in some detail with many excellent illustrations:

Strength and design of bitts, chocks and fairleads: EMPA and ETA members have frequently experienced the use of bollards and fairleads, on all kinds of vessels, that are not in step with safety requirements. There have been several cases were bollards and fairleads have been torn away.

Positioning of bitts and chocks: There is sometimes a lack of suitable bitts and fairleads of the centre-line of the ship at bow or stern, resulting in handling difficulties for pilots if a single tug is used in a berthing operation.

Deck arrangement and organization of the operations: The position of floodlighting and various items of deck equipment frequently make operations unnecessarily difficult for the crews of tugs and ships. The positions of winches sometimes make it difficult for the ships’ crews to safely handle heavy towing gear.

Marks on ship’s hulls: Clearer markings are required to indicate ‘tug pushing’ points, with safe working loads, and to identify the position and configuration of a bulbous bow.

High “dead slow” of ships: In reefer vessels, container vessels and Ro-Ro ships, it frequently happens that the ship being assisted has a ‘dead slow’ of 8 knots or even more. This can be a real danger for the tug. Speed has been identified as a key element in most tug accidents.

Specific practical advice is included in the guidelines in a form that will be of use to those involved in the planning and design of ships equipment where the use of tugs will be a routine operation.

For further information contact the ETA via Email at the address:

Sources: Maritime Journal
Photo’s: Mercator Media

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