spud barges out at seaSpud barges, also called jackup barges, are vital for maritime construction and marine salvage projects. However, working on a spud barge carries unique risks for construction employees and seamen, combining the hazards of a construction site with the open-water risks of marine work.

What Is a Spud Barge?

A spud barge is a large platform that is loaded with heavy materials and is towed into place by another vessel. Unlike other barges, spud barges can be moored using long pilings (known as spuds) that run through the deck and into the sea floor, stabilizing the platform while it is in use.

Spud barges are most commonly used for:

  • Construction and demolition. Spud barges provide a stable platform for heavy equipment to be used in coastal areas, making the construction of bridges, docks, piers, and other offshore and underwater projects possible.
  • Marine salvage. Cranes mounted on spud barges can be used in dredging, land reclamation, canal maintenance, and other salvage and repair activities.
  • Pipeline operations. Spud barges are often used in oil rig operations as well as pipeline hookup and repair.
  • Pile driving. Once they are anchored in place, spud barges can be used to drive pilings for docks, bridge supports, and other structures on or over water.
  • Transportation of industrial materials. Once a project is complete, spuds are pulled up, and the barge can be used to transport heavy equipment, machinery, supplies, and other materials to another site.

Injuries Commonly Sustained on Jackup Barges

Jackup barges may have four or more spuds to keep them in place, and each one may weigh up to five tons. Heavy-duty winches are needed to lower and raise the spuds and position them correctly—and if they are not properly secured, workers can sustain severe or life-changing injuries.

Accidents sustained on spud barges may include:

  • Struck-by accidents. Employees may be struck by equipment hanging from cranes, swinging crane arms, or even by the spud as it is raised or lowered. Many struck-by accidents result in the worker losing his footing, falling from a height, or being knocked overboard.
  • Back trauma. Back injuries can occur as a result of sudden trauma, or they may occur over time as a result of lifting the 100-pound steel pin needed to secure a spud.
  • Crush or amputation injuries. Barge crews may have their hands or fingers crushed as they attempt to remove a spud pin, and may be caught between objects if a cable breaks or the spud drops suddenly.
  • Slip and fall accidents. These floating construction sites often contain a variety of tripping or slipping hazards, including wet and oily decks, large pieces of debris, scattered building materials, and unsafe stairs and ladders.
  • Death. Many fatal accidents have occurred aboard spud barges, including those caused by explosions, drownings, and failure to secure the spuds during transport.

As a maritime worker, you have the right to collect full payment for the medical costs of an injury on the job, as well as wage replacement benefits until you are able to return to work. Depending on the nature of your employment, you could be owed benefits under the Jones Act, general maritime law, or even state workers’ compensation programs. If you were hurt as a result of unseaworthy conditions aboard the vessel, you may be able to file a suit against the owner of the barge. You may also be able to file a claim against a third party if someone else’s negligence led to your injury, such as a contractor on the project or the manufacturer of the defective equipment.

The best way to determine who could be liable for the costs of your accident is to speak with an experienced maritime attorney. Our maritime injury lawyers are based in New York, but we represent clients across the country who have suffered an accident at sea. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer about your case.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.