What Is a Spud Barge?

A spud barge is a type of barge that is moored by using through-deck pilings or steel shafts, commonly referred to as spuds. These barges provide a solid platform for offshore and other maritime projects. Each spud usually weighs about five tons, requiring extensive work to correctly position.

Purpose of a Spud Barge

Made from fabricated materials or pipe sections/logs available, spud barges are most frequently used as work platforms in rivers or littoral waters, aiding with canal maintenance or expansion, oil rig work, and much more. Each spud is driven into the floor of the sea or river to create increased stability.

Some services spud barges are commonly used for:

  • Crane work
  • Marine salvage operations
  • Demolition projects
  • Pipeline construction/hook-up
  • Driving pilings
  • Plugging/abandonment
  • Heavy equipment transportation
  • Pipeline repair

Spud Barge Accidents & Injuries

Barge accidents frequently are caused by an employer's lack of focus on safety, equipment maintenance, or training of the ship crew. On a spud barge, you are working around heavy construction equipment and cables under tension. A spud, a steel shaft that typically weighs about five tons, requires heavy-duty diesel-powered winches or cranes to lower and raise it through the deck of the barge. Spud barges have forward and aft spuds that anchor a barge in place to provide a platform to drive pilings around docks, oil rigs, and other platforms in an oil field. All construction sites are dangerous workplaces and a spud barge—essentially a construction platform on the water—is no different. Spud barge owners have a legal responsibility to provide a seaworthy vessel with equipment in working order and employers are legally required to provide safe working conditions and anticipate reasonably foreseeable hazards.

A barge hand or member of a pile driving crew can suffer a serious head injury or back injury if struck by a spud being lifted out of the water by a crane or while trying to secure the spud with an 85-pound steel pin. Barge hands or barge crew trying to remove a spud pin can have a hand crushed or fingers amputated if the spud drops unexpectedly or if a frayed cable breaks. A barge hand or winch operator also can lose fingers or have limbs crushed or severed if they get caught in a fouled winch cable as it is wrapping around a drum.

The failure to pin spuds can lead to serious or deadly accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the failure of a maritime construction company to require a construction barge crew to secure spuds with pins before getting underway caused a 2006 accident that killed 6 maritime workers in the West Cote Blanche Bay oil field in Louisiana. While the barge was underway, one of the five-ton spuds dropped into the water from its raised position and ruptured an underwater high-pressure natural gas pipeline, causing an explosion and fireball.

Spud barge accidents may include:

  • Falls from heights
  • Crane or other equipment accidents
  • Entanglements in lines or cables
  • Being struck by moving objects
  • Being crushed between objects
  • Burns from fires and explosions

A spud barge accident can be devastating. From falling objects to slip and fall accidents, workers face a number of hazards. Just as with any maritime vessel, spud barge owners must keep their barges seaworthy and safe for workers.

For more information and to learn more about your rights, call Arnold & Itkin at (888) 346-5024. Your consultation is free and confidential.

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