Do Tug Boats Have to Have Lookouts

Q
Do Tug Boats Have to Have Lookouts?
A
The fatal Philadelphia duck boat accident that occurred on the Delaware River on July 7, 2010 has brought a lot of attention to tug boat safety. It is alleged that the tug boat that hit the duck boat and caused it to capsize did not have a proper lookout posted, and that if a tug boat lookout had been posted, the fatal maritime accident wouldn’t have happened.

The United States Coast Guard does require tugboats to have lookouts in certain situations, such as when they are pulling a barge on a crowded river. Officials indicate, however, that the rule is rarely followed and even more rarely enforced.

In addition to Coast Guard rules, individual tug boat companies may also require their own tug boats to maintain proper lookouts to avoid accidents. This can help prevent serious and fatal accidents—for example, it could have prevented the one that happened in Philadelphia—and prevent tug boat operators from incurring substantial liability for the unsafe or negligent operation of their vessels.