Ocean Towing Advice

Customary and non-customary towage, the fitness to tow survey, manning requirements and procedures and systems that should be in place prior to departure. Ocean towage is any towing operation where the duration of the voyage, or the duration between designated ports of refuge or safe anchorage points, is in excess of 24 hours (taking weather conditions into account).

Customary towage includes those operations in which the towing vessel and the towed vessel are habitually towed in the ordinary course of trading, from port to port or place to place. Non-customary towage includes all towage which is not customary. The  most common of which is when a vessel encounters a machinery failure and subsequently has to be towed.

The PNI Club must be informed in advance of performing a non customary tow. On receipt of this information, the Club may need to put additional cover in place for situations in which the vessel has to be towed and is accepting liability to the towing tug by virtue of the towage contract entered into. The Club may also require that a fitness to tow survey is carried out by an approved surveyor so that all risks are evaluated. The onus is on the Member to ensure that this survey is undertaken and that all recommendations raised are attended to.

The fitness to tow survey includes verification that the towing arrangement is in compliance with the approved tow plan. It would also include an assessement of the suitability of the vessels invloved, towing equipment, passage planning, navigational equipment, life saving equipment and fire fighting equipment.

Manning should be compliant with statutory requirements and adequate for the planned operation including emergencies.

Procedures, including emergency contingency plans, must be in place to guide the Master and the crew. Implementing a safety management system on board will encourage good practice in line with a safe working environment even when not applicable according to the regulatory requirement of the ISM Code.