Bulletin No.: 13/1988

Date (Y-M-D): 1988-09-07

Subject: Safety of Towed Ships and Other Floating Objects

  1. The International Maritime organization ( IMO ) approved the annexed recommendations for the safety of towed ships and other floating objects. Member Governments of IMO have been invited to bring these recommendations to the attention of all concerned to encourage high standards of safety in towing operations.
  2. The towage of larger ships and other floating objects, has become a common practice, particularly as offshore oil and gas reserves have been exploited and shipbreaking yards have developed the capacity to handle these larger ships. Many of these tows have been carried out in circumstances of potential danger to navigation and the environment.
  3. IMO recognized that many countries have a well developed towing industry with equally good guidelines which can be considered as equivalent to the annexed IMO recommendations. The Canadian Coast Guard believes that Canadian measures such as legislation, standards and recommendations which specifically apply to towing ships and operations, can be considered as generally equivalent. Canadian towing operators should use, where appropriate, the annexed IMO recommendations to supplement Canadian towing measures.
  4. This Ship Safety Bulletin is based on MSC/Cir. 494 promulgated by the International Maritime Organization.

Recommendations for the Safety of Towed Ships and Other Floating Objects

1 Planning

1.1 The route to be followed should be planned in advance taking into account such factors as the weather, tidal streams and currents, the size, shape and displacement of the tow and the navigational hazards to be avoided. Weather routing advice should be used where available. Careful consideration is to be given to the number and effective bollard pull of towing ship or ships to be employed.

1.2 There should be a contingency plan to cover the onset of adverse weather, particularly in respect to arrangements for heaving to or taking shelter.

1.3 Where the towing operation falls under the jurisdiction of an approving authority, any certificate issued should specify the intended route and indicate any special conditions.

2 Preparation

2.1 Tows should exhibit the navigation lights, shapes and, if manned, make the sound signals required by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, as amended. Due consideration should be given to the reliability of the lights and sound signals and their ability to function for the duration of the voyage. It is most desirable that a duplicate system of lights be provided.

2.2 Prior to sailing, the watertight integrity of the tow should be confirmed by an inspection of the closing arrangements for all hatches, valves, airpipes, and other openings through which water might enter. It should also be confirmed that any watertight doors or other closing arrangements within the hull are securely closed and that any portable closing plates are in place.

2.3 The securing arrangements and weather protection for the cargo, equipment and stores carried on the tow should be carefully examined to ensure that they are adequate for the voyage.

2.4 When appropriate, the rudder should be secured in the amidships position and measures taken to prevent the propeller shaft from turning.

2.5 The tow should be at a suitable draught for the intended voyage.

2.6 The tow should have adequate intact stability in all the loading and ballast conditions to be used during the voyage.

2.7 The tow should be equipped with an anchor, suitable for holding the tow in severe weather conditions, that is securely attached to a cable or wire and is arranged for release in an emergency either by persons on the tow or boarding the tow for this purpose.

2.8 Life-saving appliances in the form of lifejackets and lifebuoys should be provided whenever personnel are likely to be on board the tow even if only for short periods. When personnel are expected to remain on board for longer periods of time, liferafts should be provided. Other life-saving appliances, including distress signals, fire appliances and radio equipment, including means of communication with the towing ship, should be provided whenever the tow is continually manned.

2.9 Boarding facilities should be provided so that personnel from the towing ship can board in an emergency.

2.10 Every towed ship, whether manned or not, should hold a certificate as required by the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966.

2.11 To reduce the risk of pollution, the amount of oil carried on the tow should be limited to what is required for the safety of the tow and for its normal operations.

3 Towing arrangements

3.1 The towing arrangements and procedures should be such as to reduce to a minimum any danger to personnel during the towing operation.

3.2 The towing arrangements should be suitable for the particular tow and of adequate strength.

3.3 The design and arrangement of towing fittings should take into account both normal and emergency conditions.

3.4 Sufficient spare equipment to completely re-make the towing arrangements should be available.

3.5 Secondary or emergency towing arrangements should be fitted on board the tow so as to be easily recoverable by the towing ship in the event of a parting of the main towing wire or a failure of ancillary equipment.

4 The tow

4.1 The towing operation should be in the charge of a competent towing master. Other towing personnel should be suitably experienced and sufficient in number.

4.2 The tow should not proceed to sea until a satisfactory inspection has been carried out of the towing ship as well as the towage, closing and stowage arrangements of the tow by the towing master, and when considered to be necessary, by another competent person.

4.3 In special cases, where particular circumstances or factors signify an increased risk to the tow, or where the risk cannot be evaluated on the basis of seafaring and nautical knowledge and experience alone, the towing master should apply for survey in accordance with the guidelines of a competent organization or authority as appropriate.

4.4 In the special cases referred to in 4.3, coastal State authorities should be informed in advance of a tow and, after departure, coast radio stations or coastguard should be kept informed of the progress.

5 In an emergency

5.1 Should the tow present a direct danger to navigation, offshore structures or coastlines through breaking adrift or for some other cause, the master of the towing ship is bound by SOLAS V/2* to communicate the information by all the means at his disposal to ships in the vicinity, and also to the competent authorities at the first point on the coast with which he can communicate.

5.2 In all cases, the arrangements for recovering the tow, should it break adrift, are to be made in accordance with good seamanship bearing in mind the seasonal weather conditions and area of operation.

Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

1. Safe towing operations
2. International towing recommendations
3. Special towing guidelines
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
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11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

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