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Towing Part 4 is about Issues and Points with regard to towing, since legalities will be addressed NAUTICAL LOG enters a disclaimer:


With that out of the way lets have a look at some of these issues and points. Most involve the interaction of maritime personnel in a maritime venture namely towing. Also the involvement of the Maritime Authorities Rules and Regulations with these same personnel. In the United States these Maritime Authorities are the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). By the U.S. Code of Law all maritime affairs are the responsibility of the Federal Government and thus the province of the Federal Court System.

Looking through the various issues and points NAUTICAL LOG decided that the most important issue was confidentiality. In all the incidents, investigations and court proceedings studied this was the most important point. Without it there can be no unbiased collection of evidence, a professional investigation by knowledgeable persons or a fair hearing in the Court System. It is basic to relationships between persons in first response.

In towing you will be called to respond to an incident which may well be an emergency situation. On arrival at the incident scene one will set about assisting, you will note the position of equipment and perhaps overhear comments from persons involved in the incident. By law this is private and confidential information, you are there to render assistance not give opinions on incident causes. The repeating of your observations to third parties even fellow crew members and particularly the Media is a violation of the implied confidentiality of your status as a 'First Responder'. Once this gets out, as it quickly will when the Media is around, you have placed yourself in position for Federal charges and most certainly for legal action by the incident parties involved. So to put it bluntly 'keep your mouth shut' and keep out of trouble.

Similarly there is an implied confidentiality when you change jobs within an industry. Seafarers are good at that, we are always looking and dreaming of a better berth. If you have joined a towing company to learn the ropes, been trained over a period of time, then decide to move on - fine. Give that employer a certain loyalty, after all the reason you now know things is because you were taught them. More important is if you move on and start your own company, there may be non-compete clauses in your employment contract or a confidentiality agreement. Even if not it is wise to be discreet, someone who is not loyal and has a loose mouth quickly gets a reputation around the waterfront - not a good reputation either.

Lets move on to equipment that you will need and use in towing. Everything you use must be approved and tested and will come with a Manufacturers Data Sheet (MDS). These are extremely important and a file must be kept of them. This MDS file must be read, understood and followed by all employees, if required they must be trained in the protocols involved. Should anything go wrong, and it will in maritime operations, investigation will immediately focus on this file and the employees knowledge. It can make or break the case and indeed the company along with it.

As to the equipment itself it must be regularly and correctly maintained as per those MDS, a record kept even routine greasing, oiling, charging batteries et cetera. All part replacements must be fully documented and the reason why replacement was necessary. While all this keeps your equipment in first class shape it also keeps your company in first class shape, known as knowledgeable dependable persons. If things do go wrong you will be shown as doing the best possible job to prevent that happening.

The next point to look at is employee records. Since you are a maritime operation all employees both shore and boats will have to comply with USCG requirements. All should be on the drug programme because they are involved with dispatching and general duties for the seagoing personnel. Each person should have their file of qualifications, test results, evaluations, incidents they have responded too and if they have had an accident themselves that must be fully documented. These personnel files are kept confidential and locked, they must be completed and referenced by only one person. If there is industrial legal action the resulting discovery will look closely at these procedures. It is essential that the required Maritime Law protocols have been and are being followed.

NAUTICAL LOG cannot stress enough that the legal advice of a capable Maritime Law firm is always available to towing companies.

Finally the actual boat crew qualifications and training in towing must meet at least minimum USCG and industry standards. If you are operating in International or Inland Waters all required signals must be available for display. Far too many times NAUTICAL LOG sees assistance towing vessels not displaying signals or improperly displaying them. Quite apart from breaking the 'Rules of the Road' it shows a sloppy unprofessional outfit.

Good Watch.


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