The UK’s National Workboat Association (NWA) is the only recognised organisation currently administering the country’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) voluntary towage endorsement scheme. This is a means of independently verifying a tug master’s competence through assessment.
NWA secretary Mark Ranson said 187 endorsements have been issued to date through this scheme. “The MCA certifies towage tug masters using theory only, but our towage endorsement scheme involves three or four hours of practical assessment and a stringent exam.”
Chris King, an assessor for the MCA voluntary towing endorsement, said at a seminar in Southampton, UK, in June that improving tug crew competence will improve the towage safety. He highlighted that common injuries during towage are from rope handling and whiplash injuries, which can be caused by inadequate mooring. Tug seafarers can also be struck by oxygen deprivation from working in confined spaces.
He said crewmembers need to take responsibility for their actions on board their vessels. This needs to be “combined with a greater emphasis on crew teamwork and an enhanced understanding of the importance of safety procedures across the towage industry”. Competence training and assessment and best practice guidance should help tug operators achieve these goals.