Offshore InjuryBlog

The Dangers of Working on a Tugboat

When it comes to the dangers of offshore work, a few industries come to mind. Many people refer to the risks faced by offshore oil rig workers while others immediately think of the treacherous seas that fishermen face. However, there is one dangerous job that makes the maritime industry functional, and that isn’t talked about as frequently as others: working on a tugboat. 

Tugboats are the workhorses of the offshore industry. They move barges, guide large ships, and make navigating harbors and small channels possible for many vessels. The high horsepower of these industrial vessels means that they can be as dangerous as they are useful to the people who work on them.  

Tugboat Hazards 


One of the most obvious dangers that tugboats face is the size difference between them and the vessels they pull or push. Tugboats are at constant risk of collision with large vessels or even other tug vessels. So, ongoing communication is a must for captains and crews who wish to avoid a disaster. 

Line Bites 

When a tugboat needs to connect with a ship, crewmembers do something known as throwing a line. This involves throwing a large rope from a tugboat around a point on the other vessel or on a dock. Once connected, this line can dangerously tighten. If holding the wrong part of a rope during this process, a deckhand might experience a line bite, or a severe crushing or maiming of their fingers, hand, arm, legs, or another part of their body.  

Dangers on Deck 

The deck of a tugboat is filled with hazards. First, there’s the constant shifting of the sea and sudden movement caused by contact with another vessel during operations. Then, there’s the extreme weather that many tugboats operate in. Ice on a ship deck can make an already difficult environment even more hazardous. 

Falling Overboard 

Falling from the side of a tugboat can mean so much more than getting wet. When a person falls of a tugboat, they risk getting caught between the their vessel and the one the tugboat is working with. This can result in serious crushing injuries.  

Poor Visibility 

When people think of a working tugboat, they picture a tiny vessel pulling another vessel through the water. However, many tugboats push the vessels they work, especially if the vessel is a barge. So, when pushing a barge, tugboat captains have very poor visibility while navigating two vessels that can have a combined length of well over 200 feet! Pushing a barge means that the captain and their crew must have perfect communication to avoid collisions and successfully navigate the water.  

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