Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


To the casual observer, towing vessels and barges, with their low profile and unassuming presence, may seem to be an uninspiring and small part of the shipping scene. However, tank and dry cargo barges actually carry sixty-nine percent of our nation's domestic waterborne commerce. Regulations for large ships, especially oil tankers, have touched every aspect of the shipping industry, including naval architecture, engineering, damage control, manning, training, licensing, etc. Towing vessels and barges however, have largely managed to escape the proliferation of regulation. Current legislation does not provide for the inspection of sea-going towing vessels under three hundred gross tons or any inland towing vessels. This research will begin by examining the need for such legislation. The magnitude of the safety problems that plague the towing industry will be illustrated with commerce and casualty statistics, as well as descriptions of actual incidents that demonstrate how the lack of regulation has contributed to many disasters. Next, previous attempts to regulate the towing industry will be examined. Finally, changes in towing vessel equipment, tank barges, manning, and licensing will be proposed.