Marine

Bridge Heights Are Not Guesswork — MOPS Marine License Insurance coverage



Accuracy is Crucial

“Your true pilot cares nothing about something on earth however the river, and the pleasure in his occupation surpasses the pleasure of kings.”

Mark Twain
Life on the Mississippi (1883)

That assertion made by the nice chronicler and river pilot over 137 years in the past is arguably as true right now because it was then.  However what has modified dramatically within the virtually century and a half since then is the variability and complexity of the day by day challenges that river pilots confront on our more and more busy inland waterways.  The sophistication of locks, dams and bridges, the unpredictable fluctuations in water ranges, and the implications to those that fail to think about the entire above when planning their business river journeys could be pricey profession killers.

Even in Twain’s day, one key concern of any skilled river pilot was the depth, width and peak of not solely his vessel, however, as importantly, no matter that vessel was pushing or pulling.  Whereas these measurements had been a relentless for his vessel, the variances of the sizes of that day’s job had been unpredictable.  And, whereas water ranges change and navigable channels widen and slender, bridge heights don’t.  It’s as much as the pilot to make changes to his calculations and security margins in keeping with that day’s river situations.  If that isn’t achieved, the potential consequence of a bridge allision might be the start of a really lengthy and tough battle to defend his pilot’s license, profession on the river {and professional} fame.

 The case highlighted right here is in no way uncommon within the set of info and, sadly, in its final result as effectively.

A Lapse In Judgment

In late fall, our pilot was serving onboard a towboat on a Midwest river and towing astern a 50’ x 50’ flexifloat spud barge. A deckhand and two observers had been onboard the barge. The workboat pilot had towed a number of flexifloat barges beforehand, nevertheless it was his first time towing this particular flexifloat spud barge.  The difficulty really started when he “eye-balled” the spud peak above the water stage to be 35 toes.  Sadly, he didn’t immediately measure the spud peak, inquire in regards to the precise peak or go onboard the barge to examine the peak himself.  What made issues worse, was the truth that these specific spuds might be positioned both all the best way up or all the best way down. Ominously, the spuds had been within the full up place.

The captain commenced what was deliberate to be a four-mile transit route requiring passage beneath a vertical elevate railroad bridge.  The bridge, which had a vertical clearance of 35’ when down and 135’ when raised, was manned 24/7, and the operator might elevate it partially or fully relying on the circumstances and communications obtained from approaching vessels by way of marine radio.

Seeing that the bridge was within the down place as he approached, the pilot judged that “…he might make it beneath the bridge with out issues.”  It was daylight, and climate situations had been favorable with an ebb present and 4 nautical miles visibility.

The towboat handed beneath the railroad bridge, however because the flexifloat spud barge being towed astern was continuing beneath the bridge, the spuds on the barge got here in touch with the decrease railroad metal beam of the bridge, leading to damages to the spuds and, presumably, the bridge.

Following the allision, and because the shaken pilot was assessing injury to the barge and attending to different potential onboard questions of safety like flooding and air pollution, the railroad bridge operator instantly reported the incident to the native Coast Guard station. This prompted the on-duty USCG security officer to contact the pilot for affirmation that his tow had certainly struck the bridge.  The pilot confirmed the allision with the bridge, and reported that the decrease two bolts of the ahead spud effectively bent over and the aft spud effectively’s higher bolts broke, inflicting the aft spud and effectively to bend backwards.  He additional reported no injury to his vessel or, to the perfect of his information, the railroad bridge.

An Open & Shut Case

After his dialog with the Coast Guard officer, the pilot reported the incident to his license insurer. The river pilot was instantly assigned a neighborhood maritime lawyer who assisted him within the completion and submission of the Marine Casualty Report (2692) and subsequently accompanied him to his in-person Coast Guard interview.

The assembly was temporary: The pilot was charged with negligence for each failing to examine and confirm the peak/draft of the barge’s spuds, and failing to request the operator to lift the bridge to facilitate secure passage.  The pilot was provided a settlement settlement of an outright three-month license suspension, with a further nine-month probationary interval following the completion of his “seaside” time.

After debating the deserves of contesting the phrases of the settlement supply, the pilot and his lawyer agreed that, given the absence of mitigating circumstances, probably the most prudent, but painful, determination was to simply accept the suspension with probation supply.

As a result of he had opted for revenue safety when buying his license insurance coverage coverage, the pilot obtained his insured wages at some stage in his suspension. Nonetheless, no amount of cash might compensate the hit to his skilled fame attributable to two egregious lapses in judgment:  not verifying the spud’s peak and/or not requesting the bridge to be raised.

As this column opened with an upbeat quote from Mark Twain, it’s solely becoming that we finish it by going again a couple of millennia to historic Greece and the sobering, but cautionary, phrases of the tragedian Sophocles who wrote:

 “Males of in poor health judgment oft ignore the nice that lies inside their arms, until they’ve misplaced it.”


Since 1935, MOPS has protected the licenses and livelihoods of greater than 80,000 deck and engineering officers, state and federal pilots and licensed tankermen.  

We cowl USCG licensed officers working aboard vessels of any measurement in each sector of the maritime trade.  If you would like a quote, give us a hoop at 800-782-8902, ext. 3608 or 3302.  Or fill out our on-line kind and we’ll e mail you a quote.

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