Tom Allegretti, AWO President & CEO, Safe Operations, Proven Results

The recent editorial (MarineNews February edition) by Jeff Cowan entitled “The Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) Quandary” raised more than a few eyebrows here at the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and among AWO members who operate ATBs. Mr. Cowan has it backwards: far from being unsafe, ATBs in fact represent a signifi cant advancement in safety in the coastal tugboat and barge industry and have a long history of safe operation. Mr. Cowan’s piece also contained several factual errors and is based on the fl awed premise that the regulatory standards for tankers should be applied rigidly to ATBs despite the differences in vessel characteristics. We would like to set the record straight.

First, while Mr. Cowan suggests that ATBs are a poor substitute for tankers, we have never heard industry experts argue that ATBs are, or should be, replacements for tankers. Rather, ATBs are replacements for towed barges, and as such provide substantial improvements in terms of safety, reliability, effectiveness, accommodation and comfort. Even so, one could nonetheless make the case that an ATB is as safe, or, in some cases safer, than a tanker.

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