Home Accident Tug Boat Accidents (Complete Overview: All You Need To Know)

Tug Boat Accidents (Complete Overview: All You Need To Know)

What are tug boat accidents?

How do you legally define it?

What are the important elements that you must know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our maritime law knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What are tug boat accidents

Tugboats (also referred to as tugs) are powerful vessels designed to carry maritime structures from one location to another using their powerful engines able to perform push and pull operations.

Tug boats can:

  • Handle firefighting duties
  • Perform icebreaking tasks
  • Carry another large vessel such as cruise ships or container ships
  • Tow disabled ships 
  • Tow maritime structures such as oil rights and platforms 
  • Provide rescue services 
  • Perform other dangerous mandates on the waters

Oil rights and platforms that do not have the capabilities of moving by themselves, tug boats are the only means allowing them to change position.

In essence, tugboats are generally dispatched to carry out activities that expose their crew and staff to danger potentially resulting in serious accidents.

There are three types of tugboats:

  • Oceangoing tug boats 
  • Harbour tug boats
  • River tug boats

No matter the type of vessel being used to carry out a mission in the High Seas, ports, in fresh waters or on navigable waters, tug vessels are prone to accidents leading to tugboat injuries.

Tug boat accident causes 

There are many reasons why a tug boat can get into an accident.

The most common reasons for tug boat accidents are:

  • Tug boat capsizing 
  • Mechanical failures 
  • Onboard safety hazards
  • Vessel collisions 
  • Metal cable hawsers snapping 
  • Poor equipment maintenance 
  • Use of uncertified parts

Seamen employed on tug boats constantly run the risk of injury or fatal accidents due to the dangerous tasks performed by tug boats combined with the unforgiving environments they may be required to carry out their duties.

Tug boats also run the risk of colliding with other vessels or ships.

Considering they are small in size, a collision with a ship or a larger vessel can severely damage the tug boat and potentially result in the boat capsizing.


Collisions or crashes with larger vessels can result in a tug boat capsizing due to an overturning boat or leakage.

In many cases, when the boat capsizes, it results in fatal accidents to those workers, staff, and crew onboard the ship.

Mechanical failures

There are lots of equipment onboard tugs.

Many accidents are caused due to mechanical failures, equipment malfunctioning or other types of breakdowns, such as:

  • Loss of power
  • Broker ladders
  • Defective equipment 
  • Cables snapping
  • Chains snapping 

Onboard hazards

The mere fact of being onboard a tug boat is enough to potentially enter into different types of accidents.

The crew must walk on wet surfaces, deal with potentially improper safety conditions, slippery conditions on the deck and so on.

This can cause injuries such as broken legs, arms, wrists or other physical injuries due to slip and fall type of accidents.

Vessel collisions

One of the most deadly or worst types of accidents for tug boats are collisions with other vessels.

A vessel crash can happen for many reasons, such as:

  • Inexperienced crew
  • Faulty navigational gear
  • Mechanical breakdowns 
  • Defective equipment or old machinery 

Seamen injuries on tugs 

Seamen on tugs carry out inherently dangerous duties.

Although many maritime jobs pose safety risks to the employees, a tug boat has unique characteristics that make it particularly dangerous.

Tugs are generally small in size but have very powerful torque engines able to push or pull a lot of weight.

To achieve that, tugs use:

  • Heavy-duty winches
  • Sturdy high-tension tow cables 
  • Carry lots of equipment onboard 
  • Carries at least one hawser 

In addition to the dangerous equipment onboard of a tug boat, workers are also exposed to the dangers of the environment, such as:

  • Icy conditions 
  • Sea storms
  • Dangerous water conditions 

Accidents can happen very quickly.

A seaman can slip and fall on water puddles, oil spills or other objects on the deck.

The tug can cause a worker to fall overboard.

Maritime workers and seamen must respect the required safety standards to ensure they do not end up in an accident (potentially a deadly one).

Here are different types of injuries sustained aboard a tugboat:

  • Bone fractures
  • Sprains
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Herniated disks
  • Drowning
  • Death 
  • Crushing or compression injuries 
  • Hypothermia 
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Severed fingers and limbs 

Accidents on a tug boat can lead to life-changing injuries.

Tug boat wreck example 

An example of a tug boat accident is that of the nineteen-year-old Anquavious Jamison and his stepfather Keith Pigrim on board the Ricky Robinson Tug Boat.

In December 2017, the tug boat sank killing the two individuals on board.

The family of the tugboaters filed a lawsuit against the boat company following the tug boat wreck and about two years after the incident, a settlement was reached out of court.

The details of the settlement are not disclosed but the matter was settled in November 2019. 

Tug boat accident lawyer 

Tug boat accident lawyers are legal professionals specialized in handling lawsuits and matters relating to injuries caused to workers, seamen or other individuals by tug boats.

If someone is injured on a tug boat due to an accident resulting from negligence or unseaworthy working conditions, a few steps should be taken immediately:

  • The injured personnel should get to know the Maintenance and Cure allowing a seaman to get the necessary medical care and treatment to help with the recovery process
  • The worker should ensure that he or she gathers all the evidence concerning the accident such as witnesses, videos, pictures, documents or other
  • At a minimum, a legal consultation should be booked with a tug boat accident lawyer or maritime lawyer to get a better understanding of the type of compensation is possible in the circumstances 

Many workers on tugboats may be covered by the Jones Act providing them with the opportunity to get compensation for medical costs and rehabilitation services, loss of income, pain and suffering.

It’s important to speak to a lawyer understanding maritime law so they can adequately advise you on your rights following an accident or tug boat wrecks.


So what does it mean to get into a tug boat crash?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Tug Boat Accidents:

  • Tugboats are powerful vessels performing pull and push operations
  • Seamen, maritime workers, crew members and employees on board of tugboats are exposed to risk job conditions potentially leading to devastating tugboat accidents and injuries
  • There are many causes of tug accidents such as collisions, crashes, mechanical breakdowns, human error or other
  • Tugboat accident attorneys are the legal professionals who provide legal advice to get compensation for damages or injuries suffered following tugboat accident

Related legal terms and concepts

Wrongful death 
Offshore accident
Presumptive disability 
Car accident 
Personal injury claim 
Economic damages 
Recreational boat accident
Cruise ship worker injuries 
Barge accident 
Maritime law 
Cargo ship accidents
Longshore Act
Maritime accidents
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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