The MAIB report on the collision between the cargo ship Rickmers Dubai and an unmanned crane barge, which was being towed by tug Kingston, in January 2014, can be found at the following link:
The BTA is currently working with Lloyd’s Register to improve winch effectiveness, particularly their release systems, by introducing a Class survey requirement. In many respects it is surprising that this is not already the case for a piece of equipment so fundamental to the purpose of the tug and to its safety.
Proposals are that existing winches are inspected annually during Class surveys to check condition and that they operate in accordance with the manufacturers’ original specifications. Particular emphasis will be placed on the emergency releases and that they operate correctly from all positions. The work will aim to ensure that future winches on new builds operate to an industry wide set of parameters, including emergency release time (the BTA proposes within 3 seconds) regardless of configuration, (clutch in/out or brake on/off) and regardless whether power is available or the tug is in blackout conditions. The need to have guidance on the operation and positioning of release systems has also been identified by the BTA.
Lloyd’s Register is now considering the task and needs to develop internal business case to proceed, however, with the towing winch and its controls being critical to the safety of the towing operation and the tug, the BTA considers the work essential. There are enough tugs with towing winches around the world to justify this effort to improve tug safety.