Offshore InjuryBlog

What Is a Spud Barge?

The offshore and maritime industries are full of unique pieces of equipment, workstations, and job titles. Understanding these aspects can help workers and their loved ones better understand their positions. For example, a spud barge is a type of barge that is moored by using through-deck pilings or steel shafts, which are commonly referred to as spuds (hence the name). There are number types of barges, from crane barges to hopper barges. Spud barges in particular are used for various operations in the maritime industry. These barges provide a solid work platform for offshore and other maritime projects. Each spud usually weighs around 5 tons, require extensive work to correctly position them.

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,” or cylindrical object / pipe, 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

Barges are very efficient, carrying more than 15 times the amount of materials or equipment a rail car could carry and 60 times as much as a truck. They also provide effective workstations for maritime construction and other projects. Barges, however, must be transported by a tugboat or other vessel.

Injured While Working on a Spud Barge?

If you or a loved one has been injured while working on a spud barge, contact an experienced maritime lawyer. Maritime accidents frequently are caused by an employer's lack of focus on safety, equipment maintenance, or training of the ship crew. As a maritime worker, you have certain rights and benefits under the Jones Act and other maritime laws when you are injured or fall ill in a maritime-related job. The law details how much compensation you and your family are entitled to collect for medical bills, lost wages, living expenses, and other bills.

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 six 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.

According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, 120 maritime workers died in barge and towing accidents from 1999 through 2008, including those involved in spud barge and construction barge accidents. From 2006 through 2008, there were nearly 200 incidents on barges and tow boats that resulted in medium to severe injuries to crew.

The accidents include the following:

  • Falls from Great Heights
  • Entanglements in Lines or Cables
  • Being Struck by Moving Objects
  • Being Crushed Between Objects
  • Burns from Fires and Explosions

What Happens After a Spud Barge Accident?

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries while working on a spud barge, now is the time to talk to a seasoned barge accident attorney. Spud barges are utilized for all types of projects—most of which involve heavy equipment, cranes, and other possible dangers for workers. A spud barge accident can be devastating. From falling objects to slip and fall accidents, workers face a number of hazards. Just as any other maritime vessel, spud barge owners must keep their barges seaworthy and safe for workers.

Call the team at Arnold & Itkin to discuss your case. Our barge accident lawyers are ready to help.

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