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Capsizing of tug leads to TSB warning on girding risks

Oct 3, 2019 09:25 AM

George H. Ledcor sank in the Fraser River after being overtaken by its tow

TSB illustration

The following is text of a news release from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB):

(RICHMOND, British Columbia) — In releasing its investigation report (M18P0230) concerning the August 2018 girding and capsizing of the tugboat George H. Ledcor, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada highlighted the risks due to a lack of awareness of the factors leading to girding, informal work practices and insufficient guidance and training in the towing industry.

On Aug. 13, 2018, George H. Ledcor was towing the loaded gravel barge Evco 55, with the assist tug Westview Chinook pushing to an unloading facility in the north arm of the Fraser River, British Columbia. At approximately 2210 local time, George H. Ledcor girded and capsized after being overtaken by the barge. The four crewmembers on board were rescued from the tug's overturned hull.

The investigation found that the girding and capsizing happened quickly following an attempt to change the direction of the barge. As the barge began to overtake George H. Ledcor, the towline exerted a broadside force on the tug, placing it in a girded position. The master applied full starboard rudder and full throttle; however, the various forces acting on the tug's stability combined to increase the tug's heel. As the tug's deck edge and bulwarks submerged, the tug heeled further to starboard. Attempts to abort the tow were unsuccessful and the tug rapidly capsized.

The investigation highlighted a number of risk factors, notably: If tug masters are not provided initial and recurrrent training and if the towing industry continues to rely primarily on tug masters to manage girding hazards through shiphandling skills and informal practices, there is a continued risk that capsizings due to girding will occur. Also, if Transport Canada oversight and intervention is not effective at changing towing operators' practices with respect to girding, there is a risk such accidents will continue to occur.

Following the occurrence, the company took a number of safety actions to reduce the likelihood of similar accidents. It supplemented its safety management system with procedures on how to recognize and avoid girding situations. It introduced voyage simulator and classroom training for its masters and mates. It also installed additional standard abort mechanisms in common locations on all company vessels.

In the towing industry, there is a long history of girding occurrences. Between 2005 and 2018, the TSB received reports of 26 girding situations resulting in 21 capsizings. For information on the factors leading to girding and the recovery methods, check out this video produced by the TSB.

See the investigation page for further information.

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