We continue our series on becoming a Master of Towing Vessels by next addressing the duties in which this person is responsible. Our last entry left off with some fun statistics that outlined the enormity of cargo in which an average sized tow can transport. This statistic, supplied by the National Waterways Foundation, stated that an average sized, 15 barge tow can transport as much as 216 rail cars, and 1,050 semi-tractors! Just one barge alone can carry 58,333 bushels of wheat, enough for 2.5 million loaves of bread!
Now that we have defined the size of the loads, let’s look at the medium in which it is transported. A river is like a living, breathing organism. It changes, it moves, it causes havoc, even for some of the most experienced pilots. It takes a very well disciplined, knowledgeable person to handle such a large quantity of steel and cargo as it is being thrown around by currents and wind. Not to mention the necessity to maneuver through bridges, dams, and around navigational structures can make hair go gray at a young age.
So now you know what you’re up against. Here are some of the duties in which a Master of Towing is responsible.
A Master of a Vessel means much more than just owning a license. A master’s first and foremost responsibility is the safety of his crew. He or she is expected to lead daily drills and safety meetings, and to correlate his or her knowledge and experience into safety training for the crew. On an average day in fleeting operations a master can move 30 to 40 thousand tons of cargo! This means that a well-trained crew that holds safe practices in the highest regard is critical for the success of a towing vessel.
A master is also responsible for knowing all the regulations to which he or she and their crew must comply. These rules could come from a number of governing bodies in this highly regulated industry. Agencies such as the U.S Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, OSHA, and the Environmental Protection Agency are heavily involved in setting industry rules and regulations.
A master is responsible for the upkeep of the vessel in which he or she is in charge. These vessels are typically some of the largest company assets where housekeeping and preventative maintenance performed under the Master's watch are instrumental to its long-term usage.
In switching and fleeting the master also plays a key role in customer service. He or she has to deliver the freight or empty cargo hopper in a safe and timely manner and is often the field contact that represents his or her company. For this reason a master must be organized and possess good communication skills. A Master of Towing must also be a Master of Communication in order to succeed!