Tugboat Accidents in Louisiana

New Orleans has coastal and inland waterways that bear witness to tugboat accidents in Louisiana. Vessels move across the Mississippi River and its tributaries at any given time. As stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mariners face more danger than other jobs. Over the years, tugboat injuries in Louisiana remain a threat to the safety of seafarers.

Plenty of maritime employees suffer incidents on tugs, barges, and towboats. If you or a loved one sustained an injury while at sea, it’s best to know how the law can help you. A tugboat accident lawyer from O’Bryan Law can assist you in filing the claims you’re entitled to.

This guide provides information about such mishaps and your best course of action as the victim.

tugboat accidents in Louisiana

Understanding how a tugboat works

A tugboat, also known simply as tug, is a vessel that performs a specific task. As a specialized boat, it tows or pushes other types of vessels like rigs or barges. In most cases, a tugboat is smaller compared to what it tows.

There are three main tugboat types manned by maritime workers in Louisiana. You can identify each kind by where and how they are operated. Here’s an overview of the tugboat types:

  • Harbor tugboats. Tugs that maneuver through crowded harbors are harbor tugboats. They are big and powerful vessels used to steer large ships. In most cases, the harbors assign the crew for this tug.
  • River tugboats. When a vessel breaks down on rivers, a river tugboat gets called down to tow it. Although this tug is powerful, it is not suitable for use in the ocean or harbor.
  • Ocean tugboats. Tugboats of this kind are the largest and most powerful among the three. They operate in the open ocean and use high-powered winches. Consequently, this type of tug requires more manpower.

Generally, tugboats are sturdy and equipped with highly capable engines. Their main purpose is to push or pull another vessel, which is likely larger. This specialized boat keeps its crew busy most of the time. They use heavy equipment and complex machinery found in bigger ships. As such, they also face a high risk of accidents, especially since they work in a smaller space.

Common tugboat accidents in Louisiana

Tugboats perform several functions on the high seas. They can tow container vessels and cruise ships when needed. Additionally, they can move oil rigs and barges since these vessels cannot change positions on their own.

Tugboats are some of the fastest to reach a disabled ship. They can help prevent emergencies like fighting onboard fire or unstuck a vessel. In icy areas, tugs can become an icebreaker to allow the passage of larger vessels.

Tugs are in-demand, and the occurrence of tugboat accidents in Louisiana is not entirely surprising. The tugboat plays some crucial roles in waterways that often put it in a tight spot. Being in the open water is already a dangerous task. High-tension cables and winches can snap, or a simple slip and fall can happen onboard. These situations contribute to maritime workers’ risk for injury.

Workers on a tugboat can meet with different incidents. There are a variety of potential causes for tugboat maritime injuries, which you can read in this section.


Too often, tugs maneuver in tight spaces. The pilot faces a risky job, which requires a high level of skill and practice. However, even the most careful person cannot stop a collision as it happens. Not only does it refer to the vessel-on-vessel collision. Tugs can also encounter pier columns, bridge pilings, or other tugboats.

Depending on the impact, a collision can cause other accidents on the scene. Crew members can get thrown overboard. If they do not wear lifejackets at that time, it can further result in drowning.

Mechanical failures

For a small vessel, the tugboat carries heavy equipment on board. Hawsers and winches can break down at work. Moreover, poorly maintained machines, and old equipment are more prone to damage.

Maritime workers manning pieces of defective equipment can suffer from tugboat accidents in Louisiana. For this case, a maritime injury lawyer can help victims claim their rightful compensation.


A capsizing incident is one of the gravest risks on a tugboat. It gets even more dangerous if the tug is coursing through rough seas. Extreme weather can capsize the vessel and topple crew members overboard. In another scenario, capsizing can flood the boat and cause leaks or mechanical failures, too.

This risk is possible in any vessel, but tugboats are more vulnerable to girting. This event refers to the boat getting pulled downward due to the vessel being towed. Unfortunately, girting can capsize the tug into the water.

Slip and fall

By law, vessels should ensure nonskid surfaces for the crew’s safety. However, it doesn’t guarantee that workers are fully protected against slips and falls. They can lose their footing, especially during bad weather. Any simple trip or fall can result in chronic injuries like back pain or broken bones.

Tug accidents by the numbers

Tugboat accidents in Louisiana are relatively lower compared to that of other freight transportation. For every fatal injury on a tug, there are 132 grave accidents related to 18-wheeler trucks. Even then, incidents involving tugs remain a real threat to maritime workers.

In 2020, a fatal Louisiana tugboat accident led to four missing persons, including the pilot, captain, and a crewman. It involved a head-on crash between two barges pushed by tugboats. Each vessel tried to pass through a Mississippi River bend. Investigations revealed that inadequate communication is the likely cause.

The tugboat and barge sector takes up a large portion of the overall maritime industry. It employs over 33,000 workers. Unfortunately, this huge number means more people are at risk for accidents involving tugboats and barges.

This concrete example is only one of many accidents that can befall maritime workers. Therefore, it’s important to know what you should do if you suffer from injuries as a tugboat worker.

Steps to follow when met with tugboat accidents in Louisiana

If you get injured while working on a tugboat, you can seek legal assistance from a tugboat accident lawyer as soon as possible. Under maritime laws such as the Jones Act, you deserve compensation for suffering an accident onboard. You have the right to demand payment for injuries sustained due to unseaworthy working conditions or negligence.

To claim compensation, you should have proof that you got hurt during your working hours on the tugboat. You can do so by presenting medical records and photos related to the incident. You must provide proof that the accident was caused by the employer’s negligence.

Choose O’Bryan Law attorneys

A maritime injury lawyer from O’Bryan Law can help you organize your case and secure evidence for your claim. We are a team of legal experts who have plenty of experience in helping mariners acquire the compensation they deserve.

If you fell victim to tugboat accidents in Louisiana, call us and we’ll build your case right away. Our professionals can legally represent you and help you get through the complex process of filing claims.